The Likable Character of Sir Gawain
Written in the 14th century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a romantic novel that tells the story of one of King Arthur’s knights. Sir Gawain, the protagonist in this tale, has to undertake difficult challenges in order to prove his status. He must embark on an adventure to find the green knight, a journey during which he has to overcome numerous obstacles and challenges. As one reads this tale, they not only get caught up in the dramatic ventures of Sir Gawain but also find him easily likable due to his qualities. Although he tells some lies by omission, Gawain remains a likable character who also teaches the reader the value of humility and honesty.
Throughout the tale, the reader can see that although Gawain may have ignored certain rules and regulations, he is a man of honor and noble nature. In addition, Sir Gawain is a fearless man. In the story, he reveals his attitude to problems “In destinies sad or merry, True men can but try.” (Norton 561-565). These words transmit not only optimism, but also strength and confidence. Such a vision of adversity is seen in how he, time and again, finds ways to escape death and save his life. At the same time, Gawain can be said to be a firm believer in his inner truth and a man who does not break his word of honor. He is tested numerous times by Lady Bercilak but remains nothing less than a gentleman to her.
As the tale begins, Sir Gawain is faced with the dilemma of defending his pride and honor and risking his life in the Green Knight challenge. The Green Knight challenges King Arthur’s court and it is Sir Gawain who is brave enough to take the cup from the King’s hands. With this act of courage, Sir Gawain had saved his King’s life and honor. Later on in the poem, Sir Gawain does not flee Camelot even after he knew that the Green Knight wanted to cut off his head. He instead chose to do the right thing and went to look for the green knight, in order to meet the terms of their contract.
Finally, Sir Gawain has many admirable qualities including modesty. In one instance, he mentions himself last in the list of King Arthur’s knights ranked according to physical and mental abilities. However, Sir Gawain is, in reality, the nephew of the king and one of the most honorable men and brave knights in Camelot. When the Green Knight first appears in King Arthur’s court, he catches everyone by surprise: “There hurtles in at the hall-door an unknown rider, One the greatest on ground in growth of his frame… Half a giant on earth I hold him to be.” (Norton 136-140). Despite this, Sir Gawain proves his bravery and generosity by offering to take the challenge.
Sir Gawain is portrayed as a man who lived by a code of loyalty, honesty, and bravery. Despite the many challenges he faces in the journey to meet the Green Knight, he eventually proves his status. He is a likable character who treats all people with honesty and courtesy and strives to fulfill his word. He also doesn’t take advantage of his kinship and is modest with his achievements. Sir Gawain, without a doubt, epitomizes all the values that are expected of a King’s Knight.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Seventh Edition. Volume1. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2000.