Christian Symbolism And Chivalric Ideals In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

1920 words - 8 pages

Upon first Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I noticed that it comes off as a romantic normative poem about chivalric ideals and traditions of the ruling class with covertly Christian Images. The protagonist character Sir Gawain stands out as the role model of the chivalric ideals of the 14th century while displaying Christian images on his armor. The combination of Gawain’s armor and actions throughout the poem exemplify his characteristics of Christian perfection and chivalric ideals. The very first scene with Bertilak of Hautdesert known as the Green Knight begins to mold your perception of how chivalrous Sir Gawain is by portraying him as valiant, humble, and virtuous knight to Arthur. I felt that the interruption of Arthur accepting Bertilak’s request, gave Gawain the chance to become a martyr if Arthur in fact could not behead Bertilak in a single swipe and therefore Gawain followed the code of chivalry to have unwavering loyalty to his lord.
These beliefs in the code of chivalry and the Christian faith stood out most to me regarding this poem and how as the story progressed the author portrayed Gawain more and more as a symbol of the ideal Christian knight in particular by his armor. As I read the poem, part 2 to be precise was when Gawain was being armored for his journey and the armor he adorned showed direct reference to the Christian influence. The symbol that Gawain displayed on his shield and coat, and the fact that the author gives a great amount of detail to is the pentangle “that Solomon designed long ago as an emblem of fidelity” (Black 176), which resembles a never ending five point star that was symbolic of Gawain’s whole journey as it was his obligation made as a knight and as a Christian to fulfill his promise. As a Christian Gawain also believed in if he fulfilled his promise and continued his chivalrous actions that no matter what happens he will still find salvation from God.
Even the armor without the pentangle had a religious importance in medieval literature because to be adorned in armor was to “be strengthened in the lord, in the might of his power … [and with] the armor of God that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil” (Green 126), which comes into play when Bertilak’s wife tries to seduce Gawain. In this instance Bertilak is representative of the devil and he is using his wife to test Gawain to see if he would commit sodomy and break his religious and knightly code. This scene is extremely important since he has been “divested of his armor, relived of his helmet, horse and his coat” (Ashton 60), basically everything physical that reminds him of his faith. However, even without his armor being a constant reminder of his faith and honor he proves he is truly faithful and chivalrous by turning down Bertilak’s wife.
To get a better understanding of the meaning and importance of the pentangle we must analyze the author’s description of the meaning of it or lack thereof. The author...

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