Sir Gawain's Quest

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Sir Gawain is challenged. Gawain’s quest is not a typical challenge of the heroic knight errant; rather it is the inner-wrought moral challenge of Gawain’s soul, and of his own human nature. Gawain’s quest takes him from the shining court of Arthur to the fetid Chapel Green. Along the way Gawain is sorely tested, both in bravery and chivalry. Though Gawain pridefully upholds the highest perfection of moral codes and Christian knighthood, he comes to recognize a painful lesson; that all men are merely human, and thus imperfect as nature created him. Gawain’s first test is exemplified by Green Knight’s challenge to exchange blows with an axe. The Green Knight presents a most fearsome sight to the Christian court of King Arthur, for his vigor…show more content…
The rich description of Gawain’s garments, illustratrated by the pentangle on his shield, tells us that Gawain adheres to the code of chivalry. Gawain is described as “faultless in his five senses” [line 640]. The poet goes on to list the ways in which Gawain is virtuous: “his five fingers never fail him, and he always remembers the five wounds of Christ, as well as the five joys of the Virgin Mary” [640-45]. The fifth is Gawain himself, who embodies the five moral virtues of the code of chivalry: friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety [651-54]. Gawain demonstrates his belief in the Christian God when he gets lost in a winter storm, “He prays with all his might that Mary may be his guide till a dwelling comes in sight” [737-39]. Gawain’s stay at the manor of Lord Bertilak will place him in a difficult situation. Gawain’s moral code of chastity and courtesy will be sorely tested by a repeated pattern of hunting and seduction on the part of Lord Bertilak and his Lady. The difficulty and complexity of each of Bertilak’s hunts directly mirror each test of Gawain’s moral virtue and code of honor in the bedchamber. Although Gawain almost completely resists the temptations set before him, he does falter slightly. Gawain only accepts the Lady’s offer a magical protective girdle out of fear for his

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