Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

An Examination of Embarrassment and Individual Standards In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the anonymous author offers the reader a protagonist infinitely aware of his place in society and of the potentially capricious nature of his acclaim. Popularly considered one of the most virtuous knights in Camelot, a kingdom which is itself the very paradigm of virtue in literature, Gawain recognizes the influence he holds with his compatriots - the power to bolster their waning hopes in times of crisis by remaining fearlessly stoic, or, conversely, the power to quash those hopes by succumbing to the same fear as they. Indeed, the very concept of the idyllic city of Camelot rests on the foundation of the Order of the Round Table, a group of knights that would protect the residents of Camelot from any outside threat, thus maintaining the internal tranquility that defines Arthur's realm. Understandably, Gawain takes this responsibility very seriously, and to the extreme. As a protector of this perfect place, Gawain holds himself to a standard of utter perfection and feels that any less comprises an embarrassment. This ideal that Gawain sets for himself acts as the impetus for his actions throughout the tale. As the story progresses, however, the nature of Gawain's embarrassment, or...

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