Gawain embodies many of the characteristics of the chivalric knight and hero, among them, modesty, honesty, commitment, courage, and an even temperament. He also engages in the activities that define heroes: a journey, a challenge, and the proof of his worth. Although he is almost beyond reproach, he does commit a single error, and it is this mistake that serves as the incident around which the lesson of the tale is developed. Because Sir Gawain is so concerned with maintaining his reputation and image as a chivalrous knight, he tells a lie by omission to his host regarding the green girdle that belongs to the host’s wife. This lie, once it is revealed, becomes the means by which the mild hubris that afflicts Gawain is exposed and also the means by which the hubris can be corrected. Gawain never loses his appeal; in fact while the lie is not really serious, he is incredibly devoted to repenting for it, which only increases his heroic stature in front of the reader.
Beowulf is the ideal hero and king. From an early age, he has proven his worthiness to carry both of these labels, and in this epic tale the reader is able to review his entire heroic life history to see how he rose to prominence. What is especially interesting is that the way in which the tale is structured and narrated permits the reader to observe two different types of heroism: the heroism of youth and the heroism of an older, wiser, and more mature warrior. In his youth, the physical characteristics of heroism are emphasized. Beowulf is recalled as having performed physical feats that no other man was capable of doing, and such feats required immense reserves of courage. In his older age the feats of heroism are more subtle, more abstract, and one might question his decision to battle one final time, resulting in his death wound and his people’s loss of their king. However, the code of the hero compelled Beowulf to defend his people one final time; he seemed to trust that a younger hero-warrior would rise to the occasion should death befall him, as it did.Although the settings, characters, and plots of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and “Beowulf" are different, the key themes of each of these works are quite similar. In both tales, the reader meets a central heroic figure who is endowed with intellectual, physical, and psychological prowess that equip him for the task of confronting significant challenges to his authority and the people in his charge, thereby provoking the reader to consider the themes of heroism and the epic journey, as well as the theme of the constant battle between good and evil. By comparing and contrasting these two works, the reader can come to a fuller understanding of the importance of these subjects as enduring themes in literature throughout the ages. Beowulf and Sir Gawain are presented by their respective authors as ideal character types whose behavior should be emulated in order to advance society. Even—and especially—their minor flaws teach important lessons. These heroes must be constantly alert to potential threats caused by evil forces who wish to do them harm and create social disorder.
Comparing the Hero in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
921 Words4 Pages
Beowulf and Sir Gawain – True Heroes
Heroes come in many forms. The construction of "the heroic" has taken many forms, yet traits such as: courage, honor, and loyalty, reappear as themes throughout the "hero" personality. The characters of Beowulf and Sir Gawain each represent a version of a hero, yet each comes across quite differently in their story. A hero can be said to truly win if he remains constant to his noble values when put in any situation that crosses his way. When measured by that criterion, Sir Gawain stands out above Beowulf as a true hero, due to his command of both personal and spiritual power through the use of thought, as well as valiant deeds.
The character of Beowulf stands as a hero to the ancient Danes…show more content…
The story of Sir Gawain works on an opposite level from that of Beowulf. Just as Beowulf emphasizes outward strength, the character of Gawain stands as a paradigm of inner strength as a path to outward glory. The battles Gawain fights occur inside his mind. The chivalric code is one concerned with honor and duty within a society of corruption and sin. The role of chivalry was one concerned with example. A chivalric Knight, such as Gawain, must abide by the inner code of morality in order to remain true to his self, his lord, and his God. Sin, for Gawain, would begin in the mind, and lead to dishonorable deeds in the outside world. Throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain travels on a path which is as much one of inner contemplation, as it is of actual travel. We see Gawain at the beginning of his journey being,"...faultless in his five senses,/Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers,"(640-1). Gawain’s traits being likened to the five wounds of Christ sets up his eventual fall from the very start. However, like Christ, Gawain is reborn to a new life through the "scratch" the Green Knight gives him (2312). From that small wound, Gawain realizes that he cannot live up to the perfect image of chivalry he has sworn to uphold. To Gawain, this wound comes very close to being the death knell of the entire moral system Gawain has dedicated his life to.
As both these