Despite its divine origins, the chivalric code is ultimately a human ideal. Chivalry is not a trait naturally found in man, but rather a concept constructed by humanity in its pursuit for Christ-like perfection. It has even been suggested that chivalry is at odds with the nature of man. Despite the weakness of his human nature, however, Sir Gawain is expected to maintain the chivalric code, and he must depend on his faith in God in order to do so. In “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the chivalric code - or rather, the human ability to abide by it - is challenged by nature in a number of different ways.
The challenges that nature presents to the chivalric code are characterized by the Green Knight. The insignificance of the code is revealed in the reactions of the people of the court to the Green Knight's challenge. His proposition reduces "the noblest knights known under Christ” (Part 1) “to cowering, quaking men.”(Part 1)
In spite how the court reacted to the Green Knight's challenge, Arthur still insists, "No guest here is aghast of your great words" (Part 1). By verbally accepting the Green Knight's challenge, Sir Gawain supports Arthur's playful - if not outright dishonest - words, thereby managing to maintain the integrity of King Arthur's court. He also unknowingly passes his first and most obvious test.
It is in the castle that Sir Gawain's ability t...
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... host. However, because he does not realize that he is being tested, Sir Gawain fails the test.
By the time he returns to King Arthur's court, Sir Gawain has experienced the weakness of human ideals in the face of nature through deceit and trickery. However, despite the weakness of these ideals, the poem does not appear to suggest that the code be rejected. Rather, the chivalric code is presented as a valuable set of ideals that mankind should strive to uphold. In the process, however, man must remain aware of his mortality and human weakness. The girdle serves as a reminder of this, as Sir Gawain explains to the Green Knight after his failure has been exposed. Even Sir Gawain, "a man most faultless by far" (Part 4) with "matchless faith" (Part 4), cannot always uphold the chivalric code. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a great example for the chivalric code.
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