Character Analysis of Sir Gawain in
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain In the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the character Sir Gawain proves to be the true hero of the story. Sir Gawain attacks every obstacle he faces without any fear or doubt in his mind. He is not afraid to accept any challenge.

The story takes place during the Christmas season. We are first introduced to Sir Gawain when he takes on the challenge offered by the Green Knight, who comes to King Arthur’s castle to play a game, according to the text. The Green Knight promises to give the ax that he holds to the man who is willing to accept his challenge and play this so-called game with him. Gawain accepts the challenge, after Arthur calls the game ridiculous. This introduction to Gawain shows how courageous and fearless Gawain is right from the start. In addition, Gawain is very generous and noble, as well as amusing.

After Gawain accepts the challenge of the game, Gawain and the Knight fight. Gawain strikes the Knight with all his might, cutting off his head. The Knight’s head flies off, but he does not fall. Instead, the headless Knight picks up the head and holds it up, and it speaks. The head then gives Gawain yet another challenge: to find the Green Chapel where the Green Knight will be waiting for him in a year and a day. The knight tells Gawain that if he should fail, he will be known as a coward.

Gawain then asks for the King’s permission to go to the Green Chapel. He asks for his armor. He is then given his shield, which has a five-pointed star on the outside of it. This is a Pentangle, or "endless knot," which is most appropriate for Sir Gawain. Each point on the star represents five virtues of Gawain. He is faultless in five senses, unfailing in five fingers, devoted to Christ’s five wounds that He received when He was crucified on the cross, and to the five joys of Mary. Finally, Gawain embodies the five virtues: generosity, good fellowship, purity, courtesy, and charity. On the inside of the shield, there is an image of the Virgin Mary, who gives Gawain strength in battle.

Gawain then travels to the Green Chapel, fearing that he will never return. He jumps on his horse, Gringolet, to set off on his journey. When he arrives at the castle, he stays at what we later learn is the Hautdesert Castle. The host offers him his kindness and his hospitality before Gawain continues his journey to the Green Chapel, which he learns from the host is not that far away. He decides to stay for a while, but later must leave to go to the Green Chapel.

After arriving at the Chapel, which reminds him of pure evil, he announces his arrival. He then hears a voice asking him to wait. We later learn that the voice was that of the Green Knight. The Knight calls Gawain a coward for flinching. Gawain tells the Knight to attack and get it over with. When the Knight attacks, he cuts the skin of Gawain on his neck, causing him to bleed. The Green Knight admires Gawain’s bravery for standing up to him and fighting him. The Green Knight later tells him that this has all been a game that he is playing with him.

In conclusion, Sir Gawain proves to be a hero through his bravery in accepting the challenges that are offered to him by the Green Knight. Although the whole scheme is possibly a mortal game, which causes death or serious injury Gawain treats the whole situation as if it is real. At first, Gawain shows some fear when he tumbles from the first blow from the Green Knight in the Green Knight's chapel. His fear then begins to lessen as their battle goes on. Even after getting cut in his neck, he never shows any kind of fear in his eyes.

Quotations from: Abrams, M. H. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.