Sir Gawain and the Green Knight





Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


The English culture is laden with a common practice of having monarchial structures. It is thus filled with cases of knighthood in which various individuals engage in combat competitions in order to show their prowess and prove their invincibility (Locke 1). It is known to integrate chivalry within its systems thereby combining knightly pieties, warrior ethos, as well as courtly manners in a way that establishes honor within the communal setting. Most of the English literature, including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight thus echo the search for honor and hence respect among palace circles.


The story revolves around Sir Gawain who as a knight at King Arthur’s Round Table is accommodative of a challenge from a mystic green knight. The latter challenges anyone to strike him with an axe on condition that the person will be subjected to a return blow within a year and a day. Upon executing him with his bow, Gawain is reminded of the terms of the challenge by the knight who then departs. As time passes, sir Gawain attempts to reconcile himself to his fate in a bid to receive honor among the king’s courts. He is therefore forced to show loyalty and chivalry although these traits are severely tested by Lady Bertilak. He however fulfills his pledge and gains the honor he deserves.

            In the noteworthy English literature, showing chivalry is considered mandatory for warriors as a way of expressing their heroism. The tendencies that must be exhibited include having courage in the face of adversity as well as making sacrifices for a god cause. In the above story, it is evident that Sir Gawain is brave enough to accept the challenge when other knights are unafraid to do so. He is certain of meeting his death a year later but that does not dampen his spirit hence enhancing the image of most Englishmen because it reinforces their strong-willed character. There is thus an obsession with depicting an individual making a solo effort to fight off many adversaries by showing one’s masculinity (Weston 38). As evidenced within the text, Gawain engages in several battles in which he wins his enemies whilst being consumed with the thought of certain death upon the maturity of the set challenge. It is thus a social issue prevalent in medieval English periods with a common thread of using military might to make conquests in a memorable manner.

            As part of the Adventure series, the texts are obsessed with the search for honor and Gawain seeks the same in this story. Incorporation of chivalry is achieved by the frequent obsession of fulfilling the challenge even if it portends death for Gawain. The rest of the knights are eager to see the conclusion of the bet while the mysterious green knight is determined to prove Gawain’s commitment to the cause hence making each party subject to making these accomplishments as a way of gaining honor and respect among peers. Such a sociological issue affects many people within the society due to the pressure bestowed on such individuals. Having peers to witness the achievement of a feat as a way of leading by setting an example is a common theme in such texts and it makes Gawain reprehensible especially as the deadline approaches. He has to contend with minor victories and other setbacks while aware of the limited time he has to remain alive. Such a situation forces him to be involved in charitable causes that help in the identification of courtly manners typical of such English settings. His dressing as well as mannerisms seeks to gain favorable ratings amongst his kinsmen thereby facilitating the reverence offered to palace inhabitants by their subjects. It is often themed as a means of enhancing the person’s profile thereby increasing his relevance and significance in latter stories. For example, Gawain’s importance in his society hinges on the fulfillment of his pledge despite the dangerous precedence that would be set. The challenge hastens his mortality thereby making his subsequent tasks daunting yet this does not distract him from other epic actions across the land in preparation for the final event. The courage and bravery witnessed helps to foster his image among the people and the retelling of such tales lays an emphasis on the royal treatment given to such notable figures.

            The English culture recognizes the distinguished service of such figures and rewards their skills in ways that make their remembrance permanent. The girdle that Gawain wears as well as the green sash chosen by other knights in recognition of his exploits shows that his bravery needs emulation. It also serves to boost the confidence of other fighters since they are able to face similar situations with an optimistic attitude due to the success shown by Gawain (Armitage 47). Provision of rewards is central to the theme espoused by such medieval literature as it enhances competition for future acts of courage while creating symbols of masculinity, which are vital in reinforcing the notion that challenges are faced by strong willed people regardless of their gender orientation or socioeconomic affiliations within the society. In dealing with the chivalry theme, the story needs to be divided into subplots consisting of the antagonist and a protagonist. Creation of such a wedge helps to build tension within the texts, which thus make achieving honor a priority among the characters as it lends credibility to the individual’s abilities. In making such assertions, the variances in the stories remain minimal as the rationale for the various actions remain the same. The race for gaining honors is evenly spread among the characters although Gawain is the most affected since he is the only one who accepted the challenge. It therefore places him in a vulnerable position that hinges on accomplishing the final hurdle. Such tales are thus instrumental in depicting the chivalrous nature of the English culture.


Epic stories are common among warring factions but the significance of different cultural traits varies among communities. The English culture through Sir Gawain and the Green Knight illustrates the theme of chivalry within its texts by making depictions of masculinity in search of honor. It is a standard practice in these circles especially during the medieval era hence revealing the desire to make sacrifices in a bid to gain honor and fame (Weston 56). The reward of such courage is central to such themes as that reinforces the wisdom of making these choices especially when the outcome is known top cause doom to the victim. For instance, his mortality is predicted to occur within a year but that does not deter him from pursuing his goal. Such resilience is synonymous with the English culture as well and proves that the unifying factor among such texts is the intended outcome of making certain commitments. An individual’s determination thus becomes a source of concern to the community as he/she could bring either fame or disrepute to it.

Works Cited

Armitage, Simon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

Locke, James. The English Culture.2015.

Weston, Jessie L. Sir Gawain, and the Green Knight: Edited and Paraphrased with Young Readers in Mind. London: Archangel, 2012. Print.

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