Sir Gawain took the Green Knight’s challenge as this was part of the chivalry code of honor of all knights. He asked to take the challenge himself as King Arthur was being mocked by the Green Knight. Gawain does his moral duty by standing up for his uncle King Arthur and showing him his loyalty by saying that his life would be less missed. Gawain took on the challenge to uphold his ideals of how a real knight should act. At that moment, Gawain didn’t realize that by accepting the Green Knight’s challenge he was being tested for his real knightly honor and that his chivalry code would be further tested in along his journey to meet with the green knight, though, in the end of his journey he realized that he could not always live up to such high ideals since he was human and like all human, capable of making mistakes.
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The chivalry code that Gawain strives to live up to is one of loyalty, courage, and courtesy, a code of behavior expected of knights. Throughout his journey, Gawain remained courageous and brave at all times. He felt that honor and valor were important qualities in a knight so he always strived to uphold them. In fact, Gawain demonstrated his bravery when he accepted the challenge that no one else dared to. Then he showed his braveness by cutting off the green knight’s head and by keeping his word to return in one year. To sum up, he had enough courage to decide to go on the journey on his own rather than having other knights come along. His decision was indeed an evident demonstration of his braveness and courage as a knight. Gawain also emphasized how devoted he was to courtesy by taking the challenge and by trying to be courteous with the host’s wife, although, he knew that it implied his moral values. “For Gawain, both as a Christian and individual knight the means used to gain his triumph are primary. No amount of good achieved for society at large can justify his conduct in its winning, for he is faulty of his actions.” (Margeson, 23-24).
Moreover, Gawain’s morality is tested further when he gets to the Green Knight’s castle. Gawain and the Green Knight agree to exchange anything each man obtains while the Green Knight is out hunting. At that moment, Gawain didn’t know that the green knight and the host were the same person so he agrees to the pact. “Gawain’s action is a legitimate response to his circumstances, since Bertilak imposes upon him a test of chivalry as an impossibility by contriving a situation in which Gawain cannot be true”.(Martin, 319). The test follows with the host’s wife attempts to seduce Gawain but, he is constrained by his moral code so, he settles for some kisses instead. The host’s wife continues with the seduction thus, Gawain is required to be courteous to ladies, but if the lady is sinning and causing him to sin, by all means, be rude. remove her from the bed and put on some clothes. In the same manner, Gawain should have known immediately that she had something in mind as her seductions continued to be more aggressive.
Gawain’s a dishonest action was an indicative of a lack of moral virtues. Gawain should have told the host about the wife’s attempts to seduce him, instead of hiding the truth from him. Although it seemed unfair because he was tricked into it by lady Bertilak in compliance with the host who later came to be the green knight. Nevertheless, Gawain should have told the truth about the girdle which the host’s wife had secretly given to him. Instead, he kept it and agreed to never reveal it. Gawain was not only un-loyal in kissing the host’s wife, but also about lying about the girdle, although he still maintained some morality by not sleeping with her. He concentrated so hard on being courteous and remaining true that he fell into her trick of seduction and resulted in betrayal. “No one would have known if Gawain had rebuffed the lady rudely, to whom could she have complained?.” (Margeson, 23-24).
On the other side of the matter, the host revealed his arrangement with his wife to seduce Gawain to which Gawain’s reaction of shame is inevitable. As a matter of fact, Gawain’s downfall was not due to lust for a woman, but to love for his life.” One of the important questions to ask about Gawain’s acceptance of the girdle is to whether it was wrong itself or only in so far as it led to break trot with Bertilak.”(Allen, Valerie). His cowardice and shame led him to justify his false conduct for he alone is responsible for his reputation and his conscience. “By showing that even the best of knights is not perfect, the poet reveals that the balance between knightly morals, courtliness, and thoughts of selfishness is able to be breached”(Martin, 321). In this case, Gawain forced himself into actions that would result in unavoidable disaster and he ended up failing himself and his code of chivalry thus, he knows he has failed , by all means, his strive to uphold his honor.
In contrast, Sir Gawain undergoes many trials of courage, honor and courtesy, but failed to pass his major test of morality. As a result of his failure to uphold his code of chivalry, he is clearly affected with deep remorse ashamed with cowardice. Thus, Sir Gawain was generously forgiven for his un- loyalty, he was left with faith and hope despite his actions. In conclusion, Sir Gawain learns that no knight is near being perfect without making any mistakes.
Trask, Richard M. “Sir Gawain’s Unhappy Fault.” Poetry Review 16.1(Winter1979): 1-9. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 September 2012.
Martin, Carl Grey. “The Cipher Of Chivalry: Violence as Courtly Play in the World of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Chauser Review 43.3(2009):311-329. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 September 2012.
Allen, Valerie. “Sir Gawain: Cowardice and the Fourth Pentad.” Review of English Studies43.170(May1972):181-4. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 September 2012.
Margeson, Robert W. “Srtucture and Meaning in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Poetry Review 13.1(Winter1977):9-16. Academic Sear4ch Complete. Web. 26 Septemeber 2012.
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