Sir Gawain's Confession Analysis

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First, in well deserved order, the poet presents Sir Gawain’s reaction to his formidable enemy’s confession as an offering of his own confession. Upon delivering the third strike aimed at Gawain’s unscathed neck, the jolly green giant confesses his game and its fundamental players: his lovely wife, Morgan Le Faye, and of course Sir Gawain. The Green Knight recognizes his wife’s green braided girdle tied around his opponent’s waist, and also recognizes that Gawain’s fault was not lack of loyalty, “not cunning, nor courtship” (all of which would have been, presumably, utterly unforgivable) but rather that Gawain loves his life a little too much (2367). But, alas, poor Gawain, with his heroic mask not only torn off, but thrown aside, further uncovers…show more content…
But the “boyish” king and his noble court are overjoyed at the return of their prodigal son (86). After a welcoming kiss, Gawain relates every bit of knightly detail with as much pride and honor as he can muster, confessing “all his cares and discomfitures many” (2495). Despite the earlier lies he made to a threatening giant with a weapon of death, Gawain decides to tell the truth and nothing but the truth to Arthur. And always the courteous king, Arthur “comforts the knight, and the court all together,” silencing Gawain’s protests of his “cowardice and coveting” (2513, 2508). Arthur assesses Gawain’s deeds in a purely positive light, even redefining the green girdle as a symbol of honor and respect. Arthur adopts the lessons Gawain painstakingly learned of maintaining chivalric values over one’s own life, and extends this ideology over the court with matching bright green “baldrics” for everyone (2516)! In this sense, the gracious king trivializes any wrongdoings on Gawain’s part for the sake of court harmony and the integrity of the Round Table. Arthur even goes as far as founding the “Order of the Garter” in honor of Gawain and his services to the kingdom (2531). Arthur’s honoring of Gawain, though, is pointedly incongruous with the rest of his actions. From the beginning, the poet characterizes Arthur as the “comeliest king” and representative of everything chivalric and honorable (53). But this noble king accepts, even embraces, Gawain’s digression from knightly code for the single motivation of the very court and order in question. Though he is young and naïve, Arthur recognizes the internal importance of the social order, decorum, and cultural tradition he proffers. “So light [is] his lordly heart” that Arthur draws all impulse from the preservation and enrichment of his court (85). Call it

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