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Sir Gawain heroic qualities

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A character cannot be considered a “hero” unless he has overcome some conflict. In most cases, this conflict includes another character or antagonist. Sometimes, the “hero” becomes a hero by overcoming some “bad” qualities or bad in themselves. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain battles within himself.

Sir Gawain is faced by the challenge of the Green Knight. The Green Knight appears in King Arthur’s court and gives an open invitation to anyone there “to strike one stroke for another” (Weston, 4) with his well made axe, a challenge Gawain takes to save Arthur, but the Green Knight is not the biggest enemy that the “hero” must overcome. The hero is generally portrayed as a noble, gallant, and nearly undefeatable man in most stories, and is placed on a pedestal. Throughout many cultures, a hero is often seen as being generally respected and admired for his heroism. Throughout the course of his quest, Gawain must face temptation and his less desirable qualities, not all of which he can overcome.

As Sir Gawain continues to search for the Green Chapel, he faces physical challenges, and a notable few mental ones, which he overcomes easily. The true challenge arrives at Bercilak’s castle. There, he is tempted three times by Lady Bercilak, yet he doesn’t give in, nor completely turn her away. He also does not take her ring or “remembrance.” However, when she offers her green girdle, proclaiming its properties of protection, he accepts her gift with the thought that it could save him from the green knight.

His greatest foe ultimately turns out to be himself, as the major conflict is his own fear of death. He does triumph over that fear by finding the Green Knight and honoring his end of the bargain. However, by taking the girdle, he fails. But, since a hero learns from his mistakes, Sir Gawain realizes and understands why he has failed. He then swears to wear the green girdle as a symbol of his failure and faults.

Gawain faces conflict on two levels, the challenge of the green knight, which is quickly removed, and himself. This, however, is something not quite as easily overcome, as Gawain gives in to his fear. Yet the protagonist is made a hero. Perhaps this is because everyone dies. Death is a foe which cannot be conquered, yet the desire for immortality is many hero’s Achilles heels. As such, they must deal with their own mortality in the end.

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