Sir Gawain and The Green Knight - Essays
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About The Poem                      

  One of the central themes in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the notion of Christian virtue and the way that Sir Gawain is challenged to maintain his virtue while faced with worldly temptations. Interestingly, the poet chooses a pagan figure (the Green Knight) to test Sir Gawain’s Christian virtue, and it can be argued that the importance of this figure is defined by the medieval notion of pagan decadence and the temptations of the flesh as compared to the central components of Christian virtue, which purports the necessity for compliance with Christian valuations of fidelity, truth and honor.

  Sir Gawain is a man not only tempted by physical desires, but also by his own fear and his need for self-protection. Though the poet clearly attempts to distinguish Sir Gawain’s physical desires from his prowess as a knight and his compulsion for both self-protection and for victory in the quest, segments of the poem also demonstrate Sir Gawain’s own limitations as a mortal and his fear at the hands of the seemingly immortal Green Knight. The progression of events underscores Sir Gawain’s attempts at complicity with Christian values even though there are elements in the poem that underscore his sometimes faltering character.

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