Gawain Essay, Research Paper
Who s The Hero?
Beowulf and Sir Gawain are both very brave characters. There are many similarities between the two. More numerous than the similarities are the differences. The differences between the two characters are like night and day. According to the dictionary, a hero is a man or boy of great courage, spirit, and has undergone great danger or difficulty. A hero is also any admirable or highly regarded man. A savoir, on the other hand, is just defined as one who saves. Despite the fact that both have very different characteristics, and some heroic and savoir-like qualities, Beowulf should be considered the hero, and Sir Gawain is the savior.
To begin with, both Beowulf and Sir Gawain have heroic characteristics. Sir Gawain is both strong and brave. For example, when the Green Knight came to King Arthur s court, the Green Knight required a knight to take his test. Although no one volunteered at first, Sir Gawain did eventually step forward to volunteer. An example of the strength of Sir Gawain comes when he is in the castle of the White Knight. The White Knight is really the Green Knight, and he has his wife attempt to seduce Gawain, but Gawain does not fall under her spell. Beowulf is also shown to be strong and brave. In the beginning and throughout the story, Beowulf goes looking for the monsters. Beowulf is stronger in the physical sense than in the mental one.
One contrasting quality that can also be considered a comparative quality is pride. Sir Gawain appears in the beginning of the story as a humble knight, when he says this on page 50:
I am the weakest, the most wanting is wisdom, I know,
And my life, if lost, would be least missed, truly.
Later in the story Gawain gains more pride as he strays from his faith. Beowulf, on the other hand, has pride in himself throughout his story. In the story it is described how Beowulf makes boasts, and how in one occurrence, he has a swimming race with another man and has to stay in the water for seven full days, wearing his battle armor and fighting off water monsters.
One of the biggest differences between Gawain and Beowulf are their faiths. Gawain is an obvious Christian. He celebrates Christmas and New Years. He also attends mass every morning, or so it seems. Conversely, In Beowulf s story, references to Christianity are made, but none of the characters seem to be tied to this faith.
As in all characters, Gawain and Beowulf have faults. To start out with, Gawain s fault is his faith. Although he is true to it in the beginning, he does begin to stray from it as time goes on. And in the end, Gawain relies on magic, rather than god, to save his life. In punishment, Gawain is forced to wear the magic scarf that he relied on forever as a sign of his faltering. Beowulf was not so lucky. His fault was his greed. Beowulf had heard about a treasure guarded by a fire dragon. With his band of men, Beowulf set out to retrieve the treasure. When they confronted the dragon all of Beowulf s men fled save one. With help Beowulf slew the dragon but received a mortal wound.
The two s status in the court is another difference. Beowulf is a strong leader and eventually becomes king of the Geats. One of the reasons that Beowulf is made king is that all his followers loved him dearly. Gawain was quite different. He was somewhat of a nobody in his court. He also wasn t much of a leader, he followed King Arthur.
Of both the characters, Gawain is the savior. First, Gawain saves king Arthur. He does this when he offers to take the Green Knight s test in place of Arthur. Also, Gawain can be seen as a Christ figure. For example, Gawain appears at Christmas time. The Green Knight also brings temptations up against him. When Gawain s neck is cut, it represents death, and he is symbolically reborn with new understanding.
Beowulf is the most heroic of the two. He had saved the people from Grendal and the Troll-wife. He had also slew the dragon and recovered the treasure for his people.
Despite the fact that both have very different characteristics, and some heroic and savoir-like qualities, Beowulf should be considered the hero, and Sir Gawain is the savior. Both characters are very important not only in their respective stories, but in representing the hopes and fears of an ancient society where superstition governed the thoughts and imagination of the people.