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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – A Test of Chivalry Essay

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – A Test of Chivalry


Essay with Outline  Loyalty, courage, honor, purity, and courtesy are all attributes of a knight that displays chivalry. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is truly a story of the test of these attributes. In order to have a true test of these attributes, there must first be a knight worthy of being tested, meaning that the knight must possess chivalric attributes to begin with. Sir Gawain is self admittedly not the best knight around. He says "I am the weakest, well I know, and of wit feeblest; / and the loss of my life [will] be least of any" (Sir Gawain, l. 354-355). To continue on testing a knight that does not seem worthy certainly will not result in much of a story, or in establishing a theme. Through the use of symbols, the author of Sir Gawain is able to show that Gawain possesses the necessary attributes to make him worthy of being tested. He also uses symbols throughout the tests of each individual attribute, and in revealing where Gawain’s fault lies. The effective use of these symbols enables the author to integrate the test of each individual attribute into a central theme, or rather one overall test, the test of chivalry.

To establish the knight as worthy, the author first shows Gawain’s loyalty to his king. The Green Knight challenges anyone in the hall to the beheading game and no one takes him up on it. Arthur, angered by the Green Knight’s taunting, is about to accept the challenge himself when Gawain steps in saying "would you grant me this grace" (Sir Gawain, l. 343), and takes the ax from Arthur. This is a very convenient way for the author to introduce Gawain and also to show Gawain’s loyalty to Arthur, but it seems almost too convenient. There i...


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... life.
VI. Gawain’s fault is not actually revealed until he is at the Green Chapel.
A. Upon his arriving he hears what is apparently a scythe being ground.
1. The scythe is a harvesting tool.
2. This can be related to the harvest of the earth just prior to the Judgment Day.
B. The test is revealed to be the Green Knight’s scheme.
C. Gawain’s true flaw is his desire for self preservation.
VII. Gawain is placed in many different situations in which he must demonstrate that he does, in fact, possess the attributes of a worthy knight.
A. The author uses symbols to place Gawain in these different situations and as a means to show he is exemplary.
B. Loyalty, courage, honor, purity, and courtesy are all components of the term chivalry.
C. When the individual tests of these attributes are put together, the result is one overall test- the test of chivalry.


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