One of the major themes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is Chivalry, this can be seen many, many times throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. King Arthur’s court is built around a chivalrous code where bravery and courtesy are incredibly important to one’s entire character, while cowardliness is viewed as the lowest thing. The green knight’s challenge is not just a challenging him alone it is also challenging Arthurs entire court and its code of chivalry.
Gawain after accepting the Green Knight’s game from the Green Knight has to go out and find the Green Knight somewhere out in Britain although he is never given a location. While out on his quest for the Green Chaple where he is to meet his fate he has to pass through many challenges that test the chivalry of Gawain and the Knights of the round table. However, Gawain shows that the Knights do not perfectly follow their code of chivalry as he breaks it multiple times during his quest for the Green Chaple. He fails when he does not comply with the rules of the game with Sir Bircilak and hides the green girdle for his fear of death. It’s revealed through Gawain’s tests on his quest that the rules of chivalry are impossible, no man could fully comply with these words no matter how perfect the knight.
One instance of them being impossible is when Gawain hide the green girdle from Bircilak out of fear for his life, but no man can truly overcome this fear. Once arriving at the Green Chaple Gawain expects to meet his end at the hands of the Green Knight but is rather left with only a mere nick on the neck to forever remind the Court that the Knights too are not perfect and they all even adopt a green sash in order to remember the lesson Gawain had learned out on his quest. Therefore Chivalry is one of the main themes of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as it makes it’s appearance again and again throughout the poem.
Another theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the theme of reputation, it appears multiple times throughout the poem, at the beginning Gawain takes the place of King Arthur and offers his life for him. This completely changes the others view of him, he is now seen by them as a brave and a true knight which he was not before. This also goes to show how much the characters in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight care for there reputation, Gawain was willing to give his life in order to show himself as a true knight to the others. But because he presented himself this way this makes him unable to show his true colors, he would not tell the other knights he was in fear of losing his left and in fact did not want to die, going against the code.
He attempts to be like Camelot and to do that he has to hide his real self or else be discovered. Arthur’s court is a hierarchy in which fame and reputation are the cornerstones, the more you have of these two things that more respected and valued you are in his court. When Gawain goes to finally face the Green Knight the nick on the neck and the green sash also shows his imperfections in his reputation as well.
The final theme I identified in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was the theme of Christianity. This theme is also scattered throughout the poem one of the most immediate instances of it was the chivalric code King Arthurs court follows is found in Christianity. When Gawain goes to meet the Green Knight he does not meet him at abuilding, or castle, or anything of the sort but rather a chapel, the chapel is in relation to Christianity.
In the Christian faith, people are supposed to go in occasionally for confession and confess there sins to the priest in order to ask the Lord for forgiveness, Gawain meeting the Green Knight is like a confession, he is paying for all his sins like concealing the green girdle from the lord. A final example of this would be when Gawain is in the forest lost and running out of time to find the chapel so he prays to God and asks for help to find the place.
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