An Analysis of Faith and Self-Awareness in the Chivalric Romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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From the outset of the poem Gawain is tested. During the feast in King Arthur castle a visitor arrives. This visitor is none other than the Green Knight. Upon his arrival the Knight issues a challenge to Arthur. Arthur looks around to see if any of his men will accept this challenge, none of his men except Gawain step to the challenge.

Instead of letting his leader of sorts accept this challenge Gawain takes it. This is the first test that Gawain has to endure. After Gawain cuts off the head of the Green Knight, the knight tells him that he must meet him at his castle one-year and a day from now. He tells Gawain that if he does not show then he is a coward like he expected from King Arthur. After the Green Knight leaves all of the other members of the court cheer Gawain for his bravery. They see him as a hero and a savior of their leader King Arthur. Gawain only sees himself, as a normal everyday soldier that is only doing his duty by protecting faith in the monarchy that he is apart of. Gawain is a very humble person who will refuse to view himself as a hero.

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The main test that Gawain is going to have to face is a test within himself. During the time before he had to make the journey to meet the Green

Knight Gawain heard from fellow knights that he was brave and strong. In reality they were very happy that it was not they making the journey, and they had no expectations of seeing Gawain again. When it came time for him to leave for the castle, he made sure he had all of his armor and his shield. This shield is very important to Gawain. It contained the painting of the Virgin Mary on the inside facing him.

This is a symbol of his Christian faith, and the guidance. This is going to play a major role in his journey to find out who he really is. Gawain is blindly going through the forest and uses his shield to lead him to the “Grail.” Gawain is also putting his life in the hands of Mary because he does not know what is in store for him ahead. When Gawain reaches the first castle he is asked to relinquish his armor, all of his armor was taken except for his shield. He keeps this shield where ever he goes. Gawain has still maintained faith to this point, but this may be because it really has not been challenged. As he stays longer and longer in this castle, not only is his faith tested but so is his code as a knight. Throughout his stay he is challenged by the man of the house, to see if he would break down and give in. He is also offered many gifts by the man’s wife, but he was told not to accept any gifts from anyone along his way to battle the knight.

For the most part he abides by the laws that the Green Knight has demanded. His only falter is when he breaks down and excepts the scarf from who we soon find out is the wife of the Green Knight. Gawain also finds out that the host was also the Green Knight. He was told by her that this scarf would save him from anything that he would encounter. This is where Gawain begins to falter as an honorable Knight and Christian. In him taking the scarf it symbolizes his loss of faith. Only Gawain does not realize what he has done until he meets the Green Knight

. I related this persuasion by the woman to the scene in the Garden of Eden, when Eve persuaded Adam to eat the forbidden apple, when she really knew that it would be bad if he did. The scarf is the apple, or his corruption. Gawain sacrifices his faith and puts his life in the hands of this scarf, and believes that this will save him instead of the Virgin Mary. This is the downfall of Gawain as a character. This is even more evident when Gawain needed someone to guide him to the place where he is to meet the Green Knight, as if he were a Lost Lamb. Earlier in the poem Gawain used his shield with the picture of The Virgin Mary on the inside to guide him through the woods to safety, now that divine guide has been replaced by a soldier that has been assigned to show him the way. This is also a symbol that he has lost his faith.

At this point Gawain has in a sense broken his quest, but he does not yet realize this. When Gawain finally reaches the Green Knight he holds up his end of the bargain by letting him strike him once. When the Knight strikes him he does not die, the knight sees the scarf that was given to Gawain by the Green Knights wife. After seeing this he dismisses Gawain as a honorable knight. This is where Gawain realizes that he has indeed broken his code. Gawain now thinks that he is a failure. When he returns home to the court, his peers are surprised to see him. But they see him as a huge hero. After he told them about the scarf they all decided to wear a scarf out of respect of Gawain. It is ironic that they are all very happy and proud of Gawain, but he is so very disappointed in himself for failing as a man and as a knight.

When everything is all said and done Gawain finally realizes that he is not the true hero that all of his peers mistake him for. Gawain in this epic journey went through a big personal revelation step in his life. He realized that he was not a flawless true Christian that he though he was. He in a sense had been fooled out of his faith. In the end You can compare Gawain to that of a “Lost Lamb.”

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An Analysis of Faith and Self-Awareness in the Chivalric Romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (2023, Feb 25). Retrieved from

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