In reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," I have decided that Sir Gawain, based on the poem alone, was a chivalrous person. I believe this because throughout the poem he forced himself, even if he considered the alternatives, to be free of sin. Chivalry is described in the poem as the separation of a man from sin, and the motivation to be the best man that he can be; and has a very different meaning than perfect.

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the author makes a specific reference to the virtues of a knight, and a chivalrous knight. From lines 620 to 654 (page 68, 69) he talks about the symbol of Sir Gawain’s shield, the ‘pentangle star,’ and the illustration of the Virgin Mary. Throughout this passage it defines, through the five points of the star, the five morals of a chivalrous man. These five morals are summed up in the line ‘His five senses were free of sin’ (line 640.) The other point, which is made in this passage is that you must try and be the best man that you can possibly be, which is emulated in the Virgin Mary, whose figure is illustrated in his shield. The Virgin Mary, according to the beliefs of the time, was the greatest woman who ever lived, because she was both of the ideal types of women of the time. First, she was a virgin, innocent and untouched. This was important because she was a respectable and beautiful figure. Second, she was a mother, someone who nurtures, and gives to society. A mother was the other ideal, because she gave 9 months to the future, and she had given up part of her own life to supply to the future. The way Sir Gawain looks at the Virgin Mary is in a longing to be like her, as great and strong, and ideal as her; the way every chivalrous man should be.

There are points in the poem, where he may do things, which don’t seem moral, or perfect. One example of this is when he takes the lady’s silk belt of invincibility. This may have been an example of him doing something which was not ethical, as he was giving himself the upper hand. However I believe he only did this to be the best that he could be. If being the best that he could be meant that he would take an unfair advantage against an opponent, who had done the same to him a year earlier, he would, all the while trying to be the best knight possible. Another time when he was possibly not chivalrous was when the lady was propositioning him. He allowed himself to succumb to the lady’s wishes when he kissed her, however he did not allow the relationship to progress further. Because he was strong enough to resist the lady’s aggressive and sexual nature after more consideration, he is still chivalrous. Finally, when he flinches before he receives a blow to his head, although he may not be perfect, he’s still chivalrous. The difference is, he values his own life over his reputation. Valuing his own life has nothing to do with chivalry other than the fact that he wants to be the best, and usually you aren’t your best when your head is chopped off :D

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