24 he has undergone, as well as new



and Comp

January 2018


            With age comes life experiences that
change us for better or for worse. Through these experiences people have the
chance to better themselves by making the right decision, or chose the wrong
decision and suffer the consequences that ensue. In “Torre and Pellinore,” by
Sir Thomas Malory, and Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight, by the Gawain Poet, Gawain is very different. In both
stories, Gawain shows changes that he has undergone, as well as new traits that
he has developed as a result of experiences, which better him for future undertakings.

            In Malory’s story “Torre and
Pellinore,” Gawain is young and full of ignorance, while in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight he
displays a much more prudent and wise demeanor. Gawain, shortly after being
dubbed a knight of the round table, is very excited and full of confidence. As
a result of the excitement Gawain possesses regarding his first quest, he is very
quick to make decisions. The quick judgment seems to be because he is so
prideful of becoming one of the newest members of the round table. One instance
when he shows a lack of judgement and poor use of quick thinking is when Gawain
struck a knight to the ground, and “was poised to behead him when the knight’s
lady appeared and threw herself between them. Unable to restrain the blow, Sir
Gawain beheaded the lady” (45). After this incident, Gawain in a way loses some
of his pride because he knows what he did was wrong and a clear violation of
the code of chivalry, no matter his intent. Later, as Gawain and Gaheris were
settle in for the night, Gawain once again makes a mistake by “disarming”,
even though they were likely to be attacked (46). Sure enough, “four knights in
full armor rushed into the hall and attacked them” (46). The knights point out
that Gawain, “a newly made knight, had already dishonored the order of the
knighthood by killing a lady” (46). The Gawain that’s depicted throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, varies significantly
from Malory’s Gawain. Gawain in Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight, is much wiser, and he showcases a strong
understanding of the code of chivalry and how to live it out. This will be seen
in a variety of circumstances where the aged Gawain handles circumstances with
a drastically different demeanor. Despite the two different characters being
very different in nature, they do have many similarities as well. When the
Green Knight comes to Camelot, and asks,

If any in this household is so hardy in

such mettlesome mind and so madly rash

As to strike a strong blow in return for

I shall offer to him this fine axe freely…

So long as I shall have leave to launch a
return blow

 Unchecked. (31-32).

Arthur is forced to step up because no one else is brave enough. Gawain
realizes what could ensue if the king takes this challenge, so he asks if he
can take the king’s place for the challenge. His reasoning for doing this is
that if his “life, if lost, would be least missed, truly” (34). In this
instance, Gawain displays courage, and defense. Gawain holds true to his
promise, and on All Saints Day, he sets out in search for the Green Knight.
Gawain travels for many days until he reaches a castle, and is granted stay in
it for however long he needs. During his stay at the castle, Gawain and the
Castellan make a deal: “whatever I win in the woods be yours, / And any
achievement you chance on here, you exchange for it” (62). While the Castellan
is hunting the first couple days, his wife tries to seduce Gawain. Gawain
identified her intent, and resisted. However, the Lady makes him feel guilty by
saying, “Such a great man as Gawain is granted to be, / The very vessel of
virtue and fine courtesy, / Could scarcely have stayed such a sojourn with a
lady / Without craving a kiss out of courtesy” (70). Gawain responds by saying,
“So be it, as you say, / I shall kiss at your command, as becomes a knight / Who
fears to offend you; no further plea is necessary” (70). Even though Gawain
kisses the Castellans wife, he kisses her out of courtesy, so that she will not
be distraught. When the Castellan arrives home from his hunt, he presents
Gawain his catch, and Gawain proves true to their bargain by “kissing him in
the comeliest way he could think of” (73). This occurs the next time the
Castellan goes on a hunt as well; the Castellan offers Gawain his yield, and
Gawain kisses him twice, however. On the third day, Gawain gives into the
woman. He does this by accepting a belt of green that makes the person who
wears it immortal despite the wife’s condition that he cannot tell the
Castellan of this, which goes against the deal they made. When the Castellan
arrives, Gawain broke the deal, and didn’t tell the Castellan of the belt he
received. Even though Gawain let his greed get to him in this one instance, he
still has a strong regard for Chivalry which he showcases in many ways, such as
attending daily masses and praying frequently. These depictions of Gawain are
different in the way they approach everything. The older Gawain is much more
thoughtful with his decision making. For example, the younger Gawain would have
most likely given into the wife of the Castellan and her attempts at seducing
him. They are also very similar though. Both show that they are human by making
mistakes, and they both show a large amount of nobility.

            In Malory’s story, “Torre and
Pellinore,” the challenges presented to Gawain are much more physical in
nature, while in Sir Gawain and the Green
Knight, the challenges he faces are much more mental. Throughout “Torre and
Pellinore,” Gawain experiences many challenges that test his youthful strength
and physical abilities. On top of this, Gawain’s solution for everything seems
to be fighting, no matter the circumstance. On multiple occasions, Gawain faces
a decision to spare a knight’s life, but he ultimately kills them in both
situations. By doing this Gawain clearly violates the code of Chivalry, and the
queen even, “rebuked him sternly, commanding that henceforth he should always
spare those who begged for mercy” (47). In one of these situations, Gawain is
so careless in expressing his physical dominance, that he is, “Unable to
restrain his blow,” and in turn, “beheaded the lady” (45). The queen also
scolds him for this saying he should, “always put the service of ladies
foremost’ (47). These two situations show how Gawain lacks the mental aptitude
to make right decisions early on in his knighthood. Gawain does however, show
growth mentally, with experience and age. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Gawain faces many challenges that
test him mentally. During Gawain’s stay at the castle, Gawain experienced many
temptations from the wife. Gawain stays true to himself, and only gives her a
kiss because he, “fears to offend,” her (70). Gawain also, stays true to his
bargain, and kissed the Castellan. However, the temptations proves too much for
Gawain to endure when the lady offered him a, “belt of green,” that, “As long
as he laps it closely about him, / No hero under heaven can hack him into
pieces” (90). Gawain envied the thought of being immortal, considering the
daunting task that lay ahead for him. The lady told him that he must, “hide it
from her husband with all diligence,” which Gawain knew was wrong. Gawain in
turn, kept the belt clandestine. The last challenge Gawain faces is the Green
Knight. “Head bent, Sir Gawain bowed, / And showed the bright flesh bare…Then
the gallant in green…Heaved his horrid weapon on high to hit Gawain” (105). In
this instance, it appears that Gawain faces a physical challenge, but this is
quite the opposite considering Gawain kneels down believing that his ultimate
demise is only seconds away. This is where Gawain falters by, “glancing up at
the grim axe beside him / As it came shooting through the shivering air to
shatter him” (105). He lacks the courage, that all knights should have,
especially him considering his high status as a knight. Throughout Malory’s
“Torre and Pellinore,” and the Gawain Poet’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain experiences a variety of
challenges. Some of these challenges are similar and involve physical
attributes. Some are vastly different in the way that they can be solved. This
is where the two depictions are most different. Malory’s Gawain does not
possess the wisdom and mental capacity to deal with complex situations, whereas
the Gawain Poet’s depiction of Gawain uses his wisdom as much, if not more so
than his physical qualities.

            Over both Malory’s, “Torre and
Pellinore,” and the Gawain Poet’s Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight, the changes that transpire in Gawain, show how
he matures from a young knight, to becoming the golden standard among knights’.
This type of change can be seen in today’s society, as well. It is seen as a
young boy or girl, who can’t think for themselves, grows and develops into a
responsible young adult who is much abler to make decisions. This is important
because it shows that despite one’s immaturity at a young age, through
experience people become more mature and able to tackle future endeavors.