From the first time I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight I have been troubled by the question of whether or not Sir Gawain was right or wrong in lying in order to keep the girdle and save his life. He was torn between honesty and his own life. The question he was forced to ask himself was "what did he value more: his honesty or his life? Many scholars have struggled with this question for centuries, as well as the questions of why Gawain made the decision that he did, how guilty he "really" felt for his actions, and what the poet is trying to tell the reader through Gawain's ordeal.
When I was growing up I was told to always be honest. I was only "grounded" twice in my lifetime: once for not telling my mom where I went one afternoon and once for telling her a lie. I was in Kindergarten and broke a candle (don't ask me why or how). I blamed it on the cat. I couldn't stand the pressure of my mother's intense interrogation that consisted of simply asking me how the cat could possibly brake the candle which was surrounded by a hurricane lamp. My guilt was so overwhelming that I broke down and told her the truth. Thus, I was introduced to the concept of "grounding" and the importance of honesty. I was taught at a young age that the foundation of any relationship is honesty and without it, a friendship can only last so long and its roots go go only so deep.
But honesty is not everything. My mother would probably ground me again if I did not lie to someone to save my neck. There is another side to the question about Sir Gawain's decision to not give Bertilac the green girdle. While honesty should be highly valued, it may be unwise to undervalue life itself. In almost every ...
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Benson, Larry. Art and Tradition in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". New Brunswick: Rutgers Universty Press, 1965.
Burrow, John. "'Cupiditas' in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964. Critical Studies of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968.
---"The Third Fit." A Reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1965. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Clein, Wendy. Concepts of Chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Norman, Oklahoma: Pilgrim Books, 1987.
Hills, David Farley. "Gawain's Fault in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Review of English Studies. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.
Spiers, John. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Scrutiny. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1949.
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