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Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, Selina Hastings Analysis

Info: 1077 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 30th Jun 2017 in English Literature

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Humans are very complex beings. From sentience arrives emotions, both negative and positive, which create the beings we know as our friends, our enemies, and the rest of the world. In this rendition of the classic work "Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, Selina Hastings reinvents two characters from the medieval tale of King Arthur, including the King and Sir Gawain. In this legend, King Arthur meets a mysterious rogue knight when separated from his men on a hunt during the Christmas season. The knight hands him a riddle, "What women desire most", in which he must solve in three days' time, or else the rogue knight will slay him and take possession of his kingdom. Eventually, King Arthur encounters a woman who can accurately answer the riddle, although she herself is a disgusting old hag. What is even more horrendous is that she offers a high price for her services: The hand of a knight in marriage. Arthur reluctantly accepts, and defeats the rogue knight's riddle. As Arthur arrives safely back to the castle, Sir Gawain agrees to become the ugly woman's husband, for the honour of his king. Although initially unhappy, Gawain's mood is altered for the better when his bride turns out to have been under a curse, and is actually a beautiful lady. In order to permanently rid her of the curse, Gawain gives his wife what all women desire, to have her own way. Throughout this tale, Sir Gawain is depicted to be a courageous, arrogant, immature, and loyal knight, effectively making him a multifaceted character.

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Sir Gawain is obviously a very courageous man. As stated, he is usually the first to come forward to the king when the king requires an undertaker for a quest. King Arthur had not even ventured into the details of the endeavour, when Sir Gawain burst out, "'Sire, I beg you, let me defend you! Grant me the quest'" (Hastings 179). This proves his courage, since he seems to be willing to tackle any problem, even if the details are unclear. Sir Gawain only further proves his mettle when he proposes to the Loathly Lady, who is able to make the other knights sit as "Stills as statues, [and] hardly able to believe their eyes" (Hastings 179). "'Madam, […] will you honour me with your hand in marriage'" (Hastings 179) was the line possibly well-rehearsed by Gawain, but however, to be able to speak it so fluently and so convincingly under the hideous gaze of the Loathly Lady is certainly a feat not to take lightly. Based on the above examples, Sir Gawain's courage is a force to be reckoned with, as it seems to be able to overrule his common sense.

Being at foundation a man, it seems he has a less knightly characteristic: an overwhelming sense of arrogance, displaying his multifaceted personality. When King Arthur finally explains the quest, "Gawain looked stunned, but his spirit never faltered" (Hastings 179). Upon hearing the fact that he must propose, he faltered, as he and his pride were prepared for battle, not for something as unexpected as a marriage to an abhorrent bride . As a result of being the only volunteer and as a victim of knightly chivalry, he was forced to marry the Loathly Lady, and as a consequence of the self-embarrassment, his pride suffered. In shock of his actions, he moved through his wedding in a trance. After the wedding, he thought to himself, "Was he to spend the rest of his life shackled to a creature more hideous than the demon of a nightmare" (Hasting 180). Upon his courage intercepting his mind and causing him to propose to the Loathly Lady, his inner sense of pride was disintegrating. In order for him to be so dismayed, he must have had inner thoughts that he would court a beautiful young lady, instead of an ugly old hag. Upon realizing the reality of his situation, he must have noticed the cons of having such an unappealing bride, in which every solution resulted in having to hide the Loathly Lady, therefore deducting an aspect of adulthood, demoralizing him and stripping him of what little may have been left with his arrogance. Due to this episode, Gawain's pride as a member of the round table was temporarily diminished.

His courage and arrogance may be explained by another trait he houses: his immaturity as the youngest Knight of the Round Table in the castle of Carlisle. When the king explains he does not know how he may save his honour, Sir Gawain "leapt up, scattering the ivory chessmen at his feet" (Hastings 179). As he was the only knight the rush to the king's aid, it is clear he lacks experience, since no other knight had done the same. Another contributing factor is the fact that he is very superficial, only studying appearances instead of personalities. When "The pair [Gawain and the transformed Loathly Lady] were so happy and so much in love" (Hastings 181), it is obvious that their love cannot be anything deep, since they only met the day before the quote, so their love is a shallow, sexual love, rather than a deep romantic love. Being young, immaturity is unavoidable.

His final trait, which is the most obvious of all characteristics among a group of knights, is their loyalty, more specifically to their king. As previously stated, he is "always the first to come forward" (Hastings 179). Along with being courageous, this statement may also represent loyalty, as he takes it upon himself to help the King in whatever way he can. After hearing the quest Gawain had replied "'Take me to her, Sire, […] I will marry her tomorrow.'" (Hastings 179), which continues to prove his strong sense of loyalty, which prevents his arrogance from allowing him to refuse, and keeps his courage at a constantly effective level. Sir Gawain's loyalty keeps a constant hold upon him.

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The knight, Sir Gawain is a multifaceted character, since he is loyal as he is arrogant and courageous as he is immature. He obeys all orders given to him by the king, but his sense of pride is at the same time corrupted by the arrival of his loathly wife. His courage is tested to the limit when he marries the Loathly Lady, but when the Loathly Lady's curse was broken, it shows how shallow Gawain really is, displaying immaturity. By incorporating a mix of positive and negative traits into the composition of Sir Gawain's personality, Selina Hastings has effectively recreated the complex character of a human being. It illustrates the nature of human life, as nobody is perfect.

 

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