Gawain's Vow Essay

Gawain's Vow Essay

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In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by J.R.R. Tolkien, Gawain, a knight of the round table, expresses love and respect to aid his journey. These forms of love, from the beginning to the end, play key roles in demonstrating and maintaining the dignity of his knighthood. The manifestation of Gawain’s love forms a number of relationships over the course of the poem. Accordingly, these relationships test his true vow of chivalry and sustain his credibility as a true knight of the round table.
Sir Gawain had a very deep devotion to his faith. There is proof that he loves his Lord and his spiritual mother, Mary, in his words and on his shield. “They brought him his blazon that was of brilliant gules with the pentangle depicted in a pure hue of gold” (Tolkien 47). The pentangle on his shield has five points and five symbolic meanings: The five wounds of Christ, the five senses, the five fingers, the five joys of Mary, and the five virtues of knighthood (Tolkien 48). Gawain also has an image of the Virgin Mary on the inside of his shield. This is purposeful in maintaining his courage and strength in times of despair. “…on the inner side of his shield [Mary’s] image depainted, that when he cast his eyes thither his courage never failed.” (Tolkien 48). As for his love of Christ, as well as his mother Mary again, "I beseech thee, O Lord, and Mary, who is the mildest mother most dear, for some harbour where with honor I might gear the Mass..." (Tolkien 52). These two iconic Christian figures gave Gawain the strength to face any type of opponent, even the Green Knight. "I implore with prayer plain that this match should now be mine" (Tolkien 36). These acts of faith prove that Gawain abides by his knightly code as it says, "Chris...


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... monster, the Green Knight. This is key in testing his vow of honesty and ability to follow through with what he promises. Next, he is faced with the lord’s promiscuous wife. She attempts to seduce Gawain, a guest of her husband’s castle to test his ability to remain chaste. Gawain is finally tested for his respect of his earthly king, Arthur, and his heavenly king, Christ. Therefore, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is truly a test of faith, honesty, chastity and the knightly vow of chivalry.



Works Cited

1. Anon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo. Trans. J.R.R. Tolkien. New York: Ballantine Books, 1975. Pg 23-121. Print.
2. Harwood, Britton. “Gawain and the Gift.” PMLA (1991): pg 483-499. JSTOR. Web.
3. Stroud, Michael. “Chivalric Terminology in Late Medieval Literature.” Journal of the History of Ideas (1976): pg 323-334. JSTOR. Web.

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