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Humanity and the Chivalric Code

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While reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", I was drawn into the story in order to see if Sir Gawain would fail in staying within the lines of the courts precious chivalric code. In the beginning of the story, he was so sure of himself yet humble at the same time and he refused to accept help from anyone when facing the Green Knight. There were three separate places in the story that I expected failure from Sir Gawain and was rewarded with his overcoming, but in different ways than one might think. His overcoming's came with a lesson to be learned and bend in the chivalric code. The ways in which I expected Sir Gawain to fail in his precious chivalric code was when he was traveling through the woods, the days spent with the lady of the house and in fighting the Green Knight.

In the story, there is an instance where Sir Gawain is traveling through the woods in order to get to where he is to meet the Green Knight. This descriptive journey builds up the character of the knight in such a way that the reader is in somewhat awe of this man. "All alone must he lodge through many a long night/Where the food that he fancied was far from his plate; He had no mate but his mount" This small sentence alone gives us a very distinct image of this man utterly alone and on this long journey with no comfortable place to rest, no good food and no company. The images brought out in his travels through the woods reestablish his hardships and his need to overcome. In order for him to maintain his chivalric code, he had to persevere and "despise pecuniary reward" from anyone (Alchin). Sir Gawain works his way around this small hiccup by praying to his Christ that a place of warmth and sustenance be brought about in front of him so that he would be able to attend church on Christmas day. Apparently the vow "to fear God and maintain His Church" is a little higher up on the totem pole than asking someone for help on their journeys (Alchin).

The second instance in which it might be expected Sir Gawain would fail in would have to be the bedroom incidents. Here is a woman literally forcing herself on Gawain and showing up naked in his bedroom and all he can do is spout his sentiments about how yes he will respect her but he must also "refrain from the wanton giving of offence" (Alchin). This tests both sides of his chivalric code because it is important to do as the lady of the house asks but it is also just as, if not more, important to ensure that he does not have sex with a married woman. There is one passage where Gawain states his case to the lady as plainly as he can.

'God love you, gracious lady!' said Gawain then;

'It is a pleasure surpassing, and a peerless joy,

That one so worthy as you would willingly come

And take



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