Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Just as the title suggests, Sir Gawain is the main character of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poem is a medieval romance set in England, in the olden times of Camelot. Sir Gawain is a knight of the round table and is launched into a quest by a knight known simply as the Green Knight. On the night of Christmas Eve, the Green Knight proposes a game to the knights of Camelot. The deal is that the Green Knight will accept any attack completely defenseless if the attacker promises to receive an equal blow themselves.

Sir Gawain accepts and attacks the Green Knight, but the Green Knight survives.

Now Sir Gawain has to find the Green Knight one year later and face his doom. Throughout the story, there is the frequently recurring symbol of perfection. However, the point that the author has tried to exemplify is to not judge your own self based off the idea of perfection. The author illustrates this point by taking a main character that is initially a romantic character into a realistic character.

Sir Gawain’s incapacity to be perfect, and thus not a romantic character, is shown by Sir Gawain’s inability to follow the guidelines of the pentangle, the cut on Sir Gawain’s neck, and directly by the Latin quote at the very end of the poem.

First of all, it is plainly evident that Sir Gawain is a realistic character because he is not able to follow the guidelines of the pentangle.

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In Camelot, there were five characteristics that made up an ideal noble knight. A pentangle is like a star, in which it has five points made up of five intersecting lines. The pentangle represents these characteristics, and each trait is given a point on the star. Two of these traits is honesty and being true to your word. Additionally, the pentangle is a symbol of perfection throughout the poem, and is referred to as an endless knot. Sir Gawain is entangled in this know when he is tricked by the wife of a lord of a castle that Sir Gawain stays in towards the end of his quest.

The lady gives Sir Gawain a green girdle that will grant him immortality, but makes Gawain promise to keep it secret. However, Gawain is supposed to tell the lord of the castle everything that he receives during his stay. This puts Sir Gawain in a position in which he has to either lie or break his word. Sir Gawain ends up breaking his word, and because the pentangle is the symbol of perfection in the poem, this negates Gawain’s position as a romantic character and makes him realistic. This development supports the author’s main idea because it demonstrates a situation in which it is not possible to do the right thing, which is a common situation in the real world.

Additionally, Gawain’s is symbolized as a realistic character when the Green Knight – purportedly the harbinger of doom in the poem – ends up only cutting Sir Gawain’s neck, and not severing his head. After Gawain’s stay at the castle he moves on to find the Green Knight at the Green Chapel. When he finds the chapel, it is no more than a hole in the ground. Inside this crevice is the sound of emanates the sound of an axe being sharpened. Gawain observes the Green Chapel as an evil, satanic place. He then finds the Green Knight. The Green Knight fakes the first two swipes, and on the third swipe only nicks Gawain’s neck. The Green Knight explains that he knew all along about the girdle and Gawain’s lie.

However, the Green Knight commends Gawain for his adherence to his word, and spares Gawain’s life and allows his lie. First of all, the cut on Gawain’s neck symbolizes his imperfection. Realistically, everyone has a figurative cut on their neck, nobody is perfect. The representation of the cut on Sir Gawain’s neck further supports the author’s main idea, because the author’s poem is a romantic poem, but it features a character with flaws that are accepted by all of the adjacent supporting characters, and thus explains that it is okay to be flawed.

Finally, the author completes his argument by ending the play with the Latin quote “hony soyt qui mal pence” (Poet 115). This translates to “shame be to him who thinks evil of it.” First the author uses this quote to admit that Gawain is not a perfect person, which shows that he is a realistic character. Then the quote goes on to explain that no one can judge Gawain for his flaws because there is no such thing as being perfect. Nothing in the poem is as parallel to the author’s primary message, which is to not judge your own self based off the idea of perfection.

In conclusion, it is demonstrated repeatedly that Gawain is not perfect. In this medieval tale, which is supposed to be romantic (perfect), Gawain is drawn as a realistic character. The author used this style of character to try to make a point. This point is that one cannot pass judgment on one self when comparing oneself to perfection. This is why Gawain had to be a character that possesses flaws. The author’s expression that Gawain has these flaws is in Sir Gawain’s failure to follow the characteristics of the pentangle, the symbolic nick on Sir Gawain’s neck, and straightforwardly by the use of a Latin quote at the very end of the poem.

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Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (2023, Feb 15). Retrieved from

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