The failure in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Once and Future King Essay

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:English

Document 1

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, there is the ambiguity of heroism in the story. Gawain reveals martial courage when he accepts the Green Knight's challenges. It was an excellent opportunity for him to prove himself in the battle against the gigantic green beast. He overcomes his difficulties through the enchanted land, fighting monsters and harsh weather until he arrives at Lord Bertilak castle (Banks). As a Camelot Knight, he is determined to face the Knight's challenge, but he does not realize that Sir Bertilak is the Green Knight. Unaware that his actions with Lady Bertilak were a plot to humiliate Camelot, his refusal to submit the green girdle to save his life turned out to be his greatest failing. However, when he narrates his adventure in the court, describing his failure and promising to wear the girdle as a symbol of his shortcomings, the court laughs, and everyone is ordered to wear a green corset as a sign of honor (Banks). Even though Gawain acknowledges his human failings because he withheld the green girdle to save himself, Arthur's court seems misguided of Gawain's cowardice for bravery. In The Once and Future King, King Arthur's benevolence upbringing resulted in his failure. The unconventional necromancer, Merlyn, brought up a king who only meant well; a kind and a compassionate king who knew no weakness or evil in humanity. This blinded his judgment on the failures and betrayal by those closest to him. The king's failings caused England its unity, stability peace and progress.

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Merlyn instilled an understanding of decency of humanity with no sin or any evil steak (White). This lack of proper education on the greed, violence, and selfishness of man played a role in King Arthur's downfall. Nonetheless, his innocence is no justice for his kingdom's tragedy. If only Merlyn had told him about his mother's name, he would not have slept with his sister. The purpose of the King's life was all in vain because he failed to see the wickedness and deceitfulness of men. Arthur's failure of using Might versus Right King Arthur does not present traditional heroism as expected of a king through military succession. Instead, King Arthur is a political innovator who tries to change the mentality of his people that might is not always right. As described in The Sword and The Stone, Merlyn taught young Wart how to be a successful ruler of his kingdom.

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Like Hadfield, Lajeunesse applies T. H White childhood, war experience and perception of violence to explore different perspectives of The Once and Future King. Lajeunesse understanding of The Once and Future King was that it was a scientific problem that tried to identify the place violence lies in the world and if it was ever possible for human beings to leave with each other without war. According to Lajeunesse, White writings were based on an anti-war perspective and yet they ended up with violence and destruction (Lajeunesse). Violence and war seemed to the expected and unavoidable curse of the Arthurian legends. Godden explains the undeserved fame that Sir Gawain enjoys after his adventurous return. Godden explores Gawain's failure when he flinches before the first swing by the Green Knight. As a knight, Gawain was an honorable man, but he violated the oath he made with Lord Bertilak and his lady (Godden).

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The moment he refused to give Lord Bertilak his third winning, he knew his dishonesty doomed him to fail. Gawain's first failure of chopping the Green Knight's head draws a timeline that explains the season of one year and one day that Gawain waits to receive the blow. The confession was an affirmation by Gawain of his infidelity, selfishness, and dishonesty. This, in Morgan's view, is a sign of morality and remorse for his sinfulness (Morgan). Weiss, Godden, Hills, and Morgan argue on the consequences of Gawain's action which resulted in his failure. Though from different perspective, all assess Gawain's development from an aggressive and cruel knight to a remorseful and humble knight. The acknowledgment and confession of sin show reflection from violence to morality. Fear of dishonoring the knighthood drove his quick decision to respond to the challenge.

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Gawain responded aggressively to the green knight's challenge with violence by chopping off his head. This reaction did not seem inappropriate to his fellow knights. It is unfortunate that knights in both works could not avoid the expected violence in war. However, Gawain later realized that force is not necessary for war, morality counts. When he beheaded the knight, he waited for one year and one day to face the green knight in the green chapel. All through the harsh conditions of snow and cold, and fighting monsters, Gawain overcomes and makes his way into Lord Bertilak castle. He feasts for three days at the castle while the lord goes hunting and exchange his winnings when he returns. The three days symbolize the seasons before he arrives at the green chapel.

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Time brings Gawain closer to his fate when he faces the green knight. When he faces death, Gawain accepts the green girdle which makes him forgo his human morals and embrace dishonesty and selfishness to save his life. Throughout the story, the conflict between nature and humanity vary with no feasible solution to bring balance without consequence. The reality of nature present opportunities that humans may compromise their moral virtues to safeguard their innocence. Though nature regenerates itself, just like the passing of the one year and one day, the uncertainty of doing what is right may come at the cost of immorality. The Chivalry Code In Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, chivalry is upheld as the code of conduct for the knights. The significance of Failure in the Period and Society The Once and Future King tells the story of a young boy who grows up to become the King.

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The story symbolizes the evolution of England from a feudal society to a warring nation. The story was written within the era of the Second World War. In the twentieth century, tales are told of the super-power, western war nation, England. The feudalism of medieval England prospered on the chivalry values, all of which inspired the Knights' honor. In the end, political education and innovation are as important as athletic education in times of war. Sir Gawain's case is similar but more influenced by personal decision. The knights in the court appear to be in parallel linear time to that of Gawain. The frivolity of knighthood imposes a code of honor among knights and Gawain, out of fear, drives himself into failure by beheading the green knight. Every decision he makes after that draws him closer to his inevitable destiny of failure and shame.

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Accessed 6 Apr 2018. Hadfield, Andrew. T. H. White, Pacifism and Violence: The Once and Future Nation". T. H. White, The Once and Future King, And The Scientific Method".  Scriptorium Press, vol 22, no. pp. Accessed 6 Apr 2018. White, T. H.  The Once and Future King. William Collins, Sons, 1958.

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