Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:
Sir Gawain Faces Temptation
Sir Gawain was known as a noble and honest man who was willing to stare death in the face to protect King Arthur. However, the courtly Sir Gawain is submitted to the unexpected—not to the test he expects, but to one he does not expect (qtd. in Spearing). The underlying theme throughout the entire poem is temptation, which, is Sir Gawain’s greatest challenge because he is not aware of it.
He faltered not nor feared
But quickly went his way,
His road was rough and weird,
Or so the stories say. (qtd. Stone 47)
Sir Gawain stands up just as the Green Knight challenges King Arthur. Gawain saves his uncle from the humiliation the Green Knight imposes on the King from his badgering; for this Gawain is very brave. He has no fear in approaching the Green Knight and accepting the game. Sir Gawain was a man who was held in high esteem before the people at Camelot. Thus, he was given the title Sir Gawain, which sealed his noble existence. A knight is a man who, for some achievement, is given honorary rank and thus entitling him to use Sir before his given name (qtd. in Webster’s pg. 747).
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King Arthur was a very honorable man, one with boyish spirits and youthful persona. The King also displays his humble nature when at the table, he refused to begin eating before any of his guests. However, when the Green Knight confronts him he does not cower before him.
He raged as roaring gale;
His followers felt the same.
The King, not one to quail,
To that cavalier then came.
The Green Knight was described as a handsome, muscular man. Because every article of clothing the Green Knight wore was green, including his skin and hair, he is reminiscent of a fertility god. This idea of a fertility god plays a role when introducing the theme of temptation on the behalf of the Lord’s wife...

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... of his fault must itself be viewed with amusement, as part of his human fallibility.” (Borroff, Introduction)
He expects (and we expect with him when we first read the poem) that the real test he has to nerve himself for is meeting the Green Knight at the Green Chapel and receiving a presumably mortal blow from his axe. But when, after a tremendous effort of will, he does bring himself to face the Green Knight and accept the blow, it turns out that this is not the test itself. This test is only the symbol of a previous test which was carried out by the Green Knight’s wife, and which Gawain has already failed, marked by the girdle he accepted as a gift.
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Works Cited
Abrahms, M.H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.
Borroff, Marie. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967.
Spearing, A.C.. “Patience and the Gawain-Poet.” Twentieth Century Interpretations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ed. F. Denton. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.
Stone, Brian. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. New York: Penguin Group. 1959.
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