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A Clash Between Heroism and Realism: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Brendan Geiger Mr. Moxey Honors English 8th 29 October 2010 A Clash Between Heroism and Realism: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Rather than romanticizing the chivalry and honor of King Arthur's Round Table, the author of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" injects a high dose of realism into Arthurian legend. Regarded as the "Master Anonymous", the unknown author of this poem takes one of King Arthur's own flesh and blood, Sir Gawain, and exposes a chink in his stainless morality. Along with his fellow knights, Gawain subsides in Camelot, a world defined by a well-governed code to which everyone abides by. It is through the eyes of the Green Knight, who embodies a lawless, natural world, that the author is able to see the flaws in the moral fiber of the knights. Furthermore, the author's decision to have him conceal the green girdle from the host's wife illustrates that even King Arthur's family is not ethically perfect. ...read more.


(87-91) Because the Green Knight embodies a natural world, free from judgment, his initial perception of the Knights of the Round Table provides the reader with a realistic view of their true nature. In order to illustrate to the reader that not even the most fearless and noble of men are without flaw, the author intentionally has the Green Knight expose their cowardice to the reader very early on in the poem. As the poem progresses, the author has the Green Knight once again reveal man's imperfection when he disguises him as the lord that shelters Gawain on his courageous quest. In the latter parts of the poem, the Green Knight makes Gawain aware man's shortcomings by uncovering Gawain's only faulty decision, to conceal the green girdle from the lord. "As pearls to white peas," the Green Knight condemns Gawain, "more precious and priced,/ So is Gawain, in good faith, to other gay knights. ...read more.


(483-484) After he had previously compared Gawain to a white pea, the author now compares him to a pearl in order to exemplify that Gawain is a still honorable man in the end. Like all other men, Gawain is not perfect. In "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", the author removes Sir Gawain from his highly structured world in order illustrate that, even though man is not perfect, he is honorable because he acts with only good intentions. While most conventional medieval romance takes an ordinary figure and transforms him into a hero by displaying ones superhuman abilities, the author of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" does not. The hero of his poem, a relative of King Arthur and a feeble knight, does not do anything phenomenal. The author admires Sir Gawain for his imperfections, a distinctly human characteristic. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" attests that even a righteous man sins. However, what makes a man righteous are his intentions and his willingness to grow from his sins. . ...read more.

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