May 31, 2016
The Journal of Modern British and American Language and Literature
This paper aims to study the spiritual and moral nature of Sir Gawain’s journey to the Green Chaple including Bercilak’s temptations and the Green Knight’s beheading game. In his spiritual quest for self-knowledge and his arduous pursuit of the chivalric and Christian ideals, Sir Gawain is put to the test and sadly fails despite his moral pride and confidence. Thanks to the blessing of the felix culpa, or fortunate fall, and truly tormenting penance, Gawain realizes his human weaknesses and finally achieves moral redemption. Only at this moment of humiliating repentance is Sir Gawain’s transformation made from a formality-bound proud knight into a humble Christian knight whose sin purges him of moral pride. His artificial chivalric code becomes reconciled with his Christian principles as well as with his frail human nature in full harmony. This sad but happy experience makes him wiser and morally stronger as the sin alone can purify the sin itself through penance, which is the central theme of the poem. The final decision to wear the girdle as the symbol of imperfection and penance instead of the pentangle is an indication of his moral development.