An Account of Heroism and Narrative Power in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Though both considered heroes, Beowulf and Sir Gawain are drastically different characters in personality, ability, and perspective. The similarities are few: each performs deeds for which they gain fame and honor, and each is seen, in their own respects, as a paragon of virtue. Two factors immediately stand out as fundamental differences between the texts: Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight suggest fundamentally disparate views of religion and of courtly manners. Superficially, Beowulf displays a distinct lack of either in any but the most rudimentary way, while Sir Gawain is completely permeated with both. These differences in the contextual worlds of the heroes shape and propel them in often wildly different directions. Beginning from these superficial differences in Beowulf and Sir Gawain's respective worlds and then analyzing how these two champions (and others) function in their contextual spheres, one can uncover the deeper structures of their social orders, who actually holds power (and narrative power) in them, and, perhaps, something about the values the cultures that produced these two works held.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight describes a well ordered Medieval Christian world. Christianity guides the actions of a hero's soul, courtly love those of his heart &emdash; the "most noble knights known under Christ" sat around King Arthur's round-table (Part I-line 51). Sir Gawain as a character is the perfect cog in this system, "that [knight] of courage ever-constant, and customs pure,/ Is pattern and paragon, and praised without end:/ Of all knights on earth most honored is he" (II-912-15). He is devout &emdash; he emblazoned the image of Mary on the inside of his shield &emdash; and chivalrous &emdash; his wheedling out of either affronting Lady Bercilak or betraying the trust of her Lord whilst in their company is a truly virtuoso chivalric performance.
Sir Gawain's world is an edifice built of (perhaps arbitrary) religious and chivalric codes that constrain, define and bolster its inhabitants, and Sir Gawain is its golden child. Gawain is brave, for example, not because courage is intrinsically good and thus he, as a good knight possesses it, but rather because he puts his faith in God, whom naturally no Christi...
... middle of paper ...
...d these tribes' cosmic perception: an over-arching order to the cosmos now existed, created eternal by an eternal being, above any piddling systems men could create. This apocalyptic safety net thus removed the burden of fending off the e'er encroaching entropy, and provided a set of new, absolute criteria for virtue and heroism.
1: If read as satirical, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight takes on a new flavor. The descriptions remain the same, however; only the author's intention changes. All Gawain citations are from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Marie Borroff, © 1967 by W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, New York and London.
2: All Beowulf quotes are taken from Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, © 1963 by Burton Raffel, published by Penguin Books, USA.
3: This explains why the (presumed and unrecounted - Gawain II-705-735) deeds of Sir Gawain and Beowulf appear similar but feel so different &emdash; to an non-omniscient objective viewer, a man acting charitably out of compassion for other people and a man acting charitably because God will save his (individual) soul appear to be performing the same deeds.
4: A tenet supplied by his chivalric code
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- In Search Of A Hero For my research paper, I considered investigating many different NHL goalies that have influenced me because I have been an Ice Hockey goalie for 3 years now and I decided to choose Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils because he is considered to be one of the best in the history of the game. I am interested in him because he has broken every record set by NHL goalies before him and has received several awards for his stellar play over the course of his career. His hybrid style, a mix of old and new techniques, is much different from any other goalie in the league and poses a challenge to other players that face him.... [tags: Hero]
787 words (2.2 pages)
- Merriam Webster defines hero as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities, with that in mind do you believe the word hero is used a little too loosely nowadays. With that said my hero is my mother I know that is a cliche for most, but let me explain how my mom carries and executes the traits of a hero. A hero has a few traits that make them so great and stand out like the perfect apple at the top of a tree, heroes must be selfless (willing to put others above themselves in everything they do), patient (able to take a step back and be willing to wait), and modesty (to be free from vanity).... [tags: Christmas tree, Christmas, Hero, Yule]
1065 words (3 pages)
- Like Aristotle had once said about tragedy, it is “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language; … in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, where with to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions. A tragedy, therefore, is a kind of lie (“imitation”) that tells a certain truth about human nature and the self. Classical tragic heroes possess hamartia or a tragic flaw, such as hubris, that often lead to the character’s own downfall; and according to Aristotle, "A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." The protagonist must not only poss... [tags: Tragic hero, Tragedy, Poetics]
1295 words (3.7 pages)
- Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, characterizes plays or stories where the main character is a tragic hero, who confronts his downfall due to fate, his mistake or any other social reason as tragedies. In the novel “One foot in Eden” novel, set in the 1950s in Jocassee, a town in South Carolina, Rash tells the story of a local military veteran who suddenly disappears and the people who are involved in the case. Rather than follow the basic fiction formula of moving the plot in a straight line, Rash repeatedly switches the narration to give the story more depth.... [tags: Tragic hero, Tragedy, Mother, Hamartia]
1404 words (4 pages)
- Tran Michelle Tran Ms. Vyse English 2 15 April 2016 Katniss. and Odysseus. Epic Hero Cycle There are many qualities within certain characters that help them in their quests. Though the characters may vary, the journey and the characteristics, in the end, are similar. Katniss and Odysseus both experienced the epic hero cycle and display similar characteristics. In the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen was a girl whose purpose was to find a way to support her mother and younger sister. That is until she took the place of her sister as a tribute in the Hunger Games, an annual game held by the ruling Capitol as punishment for previous rebellions.... [tags: Hero, Monomyth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces]
2012 words (5.7 pages)
- What is a Hero. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a hero is an individual who is admired for great bravery or fine qualities. To me a hero is so much more than a person who shows great bravery. When I think of a hero many fine qualities come to mind; intelligence, courage, altruism, compassion and great bravery. In order for me to better explain what I believe to be a hero, I want to describe the hero in my life; my Father. My dad is an exceptional man, not only has he been in the United States Marine Corps for 24 years and counting, going on numerous tours overseas, he is a student pursuing his Master’s degree.... [tags: Hero, Courage, Preity Zinta, Sunny Deol]
1049 words (3 pages)
- Literature offers readers a variety of characters. In “Hero Journey” books, the protagonist is placed on a road that will take them on a challenging adventure that brings out their courage and willingness to defend others. However, to be able to be called a hero, one must go through change. In particular, the character or protagonist goes through life changes that challenge their existing perspective on life. They begin to look at the world they used to live in differently, because the world they used to live is no longer exist.... [tags: hero, courage, bones city]
1477 words (4.2 pages)
- In Sophocle’s play Antigone, Creon fits all the traits of a tragic hero according to Aristotle’s definition. A tragic hero is a literary character who judges wrongly which creates his or her own downfall. Creon is the new king of Thebes and he will not allow any criminal activity, not even from his family. When Creon’s niece Antigone decides to go against Creon’s law he punishes her by burying her alive in a tomb; by doing so Creon is creating a recipe for disaster. Creon does not realize who else it will affect by putting Antigone to death, nor does he understand that he in turn paved the road to his own downfall.... [tags: Poetics, Tragic hero, Oedipus, Anagnorisis]
711 words (2 pages)
- It is a daunting task to come across one person on Earth that meets Beowulf-like expectations for heroism. Beouwulf is simply a multi-dimensional hero in a fictional setting while regular people usually do not have those have those odds working in their favor. However, if Beowulf’s remarkable personality traits are placed in different categories for heroes rather than grouped together, then it is easier to pinpoint the great warriors of our time. Physical strength is a main aspect of Beowulf’s character and his culture.... [tags: Hero, Character, Beowulf, Personality psychology]
1040 words (3 pages)
- Dr. D is a cardiothoracic surgeon. He was my hero. He may well still be, even though he is a throw-back to the days when I was more concerned about science than symbolism. They say in the Chinese proverbs that "if you don't change direction you will end up where you are going." I have come to believe that this is true, and that most of the time we didn't want to go where we were headed anyway. New paths that come to fruition, "digressions" that become the assertions you are trying to make, aren't really digressions at all.... [tags: Narrative Essay Hero Role Model]
1148 words (3.3 pages)
- The alliterative poems Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight unite traditional Celtic mythology with Christian orthodoxy to produce a distinctly
- Arthur's Unrealism: Monty Python, Gawain and the Green Knight, and the Destruction of
- Sir Gawain - An Ideal Symbol of Chivalry
- Gawain's Encounter with the Green Knight in the Green Chapel
- Character Analysis of The Wife of Bath of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
- The Wife of Bath