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The Imperfect Man
23 October 1996
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the Arthurian legends. It was translated by Marie Borroff. According to the legends, king Arthur and all his knights were the bravest, the strongest and the most chivalrous in the land. This tale goes on to contradict that theory, by telling the story of one of the knights who not only was a coward but he cheated too. On another level, the legend shows that even the best men in the world are far from perfect.
Sir Gawain and the other knights were challenged one night to something that had no real point, but to show their bravery. When the challenge was first announced, none of the knights responded showing the first sign of cowardice. After a hesitation, Sir Gawain accepts the challenge, but when it comes to proving his chivalry, he fails because he flirts with another man’s wife. When it comes to proving his bravery, he also chooses the easy way out by wearing the girdle which that same woman gave to him to protect his life.
Although At first Sir Gawain is at first portrayed as a perfect man, he is not and that is what makes the legend realistic, because no man could ever live up to the laws of chivalry. Although his imperfections are bluntly pointed out, they seem to be more positive aspects than negative. if a person knew that someone with a high place in society was so far away from perfect, than he would no longer see the social ideals as something untouchable, but as something that could be gotten closer to.
The end of this tale though, takes a whole other turn. When the Green Knight tells Sir Gawain that he knows everything that went on between his wife and Sir Gawain, he repents with true sincerity when he says “Your cut taught me cowardice, care for my life, and coveting came after, contrary both to largesse and loyalty belonging to knights. Now am I faulty and false, that fearful was ever of disloyalty and lies, bad luck to them both!” and the Green Knight forgives him. This shows that one can also regain his goodness and purity by confessing his sins and asking for forgiveness.
This legend, therefore, contains two themes which were important values ib the Middle Ages: one, that nobody is perfect, because that is what good people of the times tried to be, and that forgiveness is possible if you truly admit to your faults and honestly feel guilt.
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