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The Truth Behind The Knight: The Presence Of Archetypes In Sir Gawain & The Green Knight

2951 words - 12 pages

The Truth Behind the Knight: The Presence of Archetypes in Sir Gawain & the Green Knight

In the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we are introduced to a young man, who, like many of young men, is trying to discover himself and travel through his rite of passage. He is trying to figure out who he is in life, and while in his journey, passes through many phases that mold him into one of the great Knights of the Round Table that old King Arthur wanted to serve with him. These phases affect everyone at some point in their lives. Whether it causes someone to take an iconoclastic stand against a certain more or folkway or if it enables a person to give serious thought to what ...view middle of the document...

It usually begins where the Hero is in a kind of utopia, when they suddenly get hurled out of their comfort zone into a rampant environment where judgment, discrimination, conflict, and violence are abundant (Pearson 73). According to Pearson, Sir Gawain begins at the 1st level of the Innocent Archetype, where he accepts the environment, the authorities, but believes that the world as it’s experienced is all there is, making him dependent (79). Although Gawain is debonair, valiant, and intelligent, he shows some personality traits that actually hinder him, making him a little unbecoming of a knight (Isaacks). Also, Gawain becomes too judgmental on himself when he questions his own knighthood when Bertilak returns to get his blow from Sir Gawain. He is ashamed that he gained an advantage in this battle unbeknownst to the Green Knight, a cowardly response to the solemn deal they made and utterly breaking his promise to the Green Knight; as penance for this he gives the girdle to the Green Knight, saying “‘Cursed be ye, cowardice and covetousness, for in ye is the destruction of virtue […] Lo, take there the falsity, may foul befall it! For fear of thy blow cowardice bade me make friends with covetousness and forsake the customs of largess and loyalty, which befit all knights’” (Weston). His virtue seems to know no bounds, he cannot break the binds of his knighthood, by that notion he is almost too strict with himself in this battle against the Green Knight, shaming himself in spite of the praise that Bertilak gives him for being so genuine. However, at the end of the story, Gawain returns to Camelot, returning evolved to a Wise Innocent (Pearson 79), earning trust and optimism without any sense of denial, naivete, or dependence of any kind.
The Seeker Archetype is also present when Sir Gawain is defined in this journey. In any story, the main goal starts with yearning. Snow White longs for her prince to come; Pinocchio wants to become a real boy; Telemachus searches for Odysseus; the prince searches for a great treasure (Nilsen, Pace Nilsen). The Seeker responds to this call of discontentment by searching for a better life or a better way by being true to a higher or deeper underlying truth (Pearson 123). When the story began, Gawain was just a knave, in training to become a knight. He may very well have dreamed of the day when King Arthur would touch his shoulder and tell him to rise as a Knight of the Round Table. Now that the Green Knight had shown up in the court, challenging the knights, it must have been an opportunity too tempting to pass by. Now that he is bound to the Green Knight’s promise, Gawain is hurled through an intense and hurried initiation into knighthood. Needless to say, Gawain may have more questions than answers. Some of these questions can’t be answered unless he lived through the experience of a knight. Some of the characteristics of a Seeker lie in his faithfulness to the code of chivalry. An example would be when the...

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