Humanity In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

1758 Words8 Pages
Whether it’s done intentionally or not, every work of literature addresses the human condition in some form or another. And the human condition is a complicated matter. It is humanity’s ceaseless internal struggle between what is good and what is evil and the nagging question as to which side humanity is defined by; which side is the mistake and which is the truth. For we are capable of both great evil and great good. According to George Bernard Shaw, a Native American elder once told him, “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, the one I feed the most.” Part of what it means to…show more content…
The lesson distilled from this work focuses more on the physical consequences of misdeeds, or sin. For each day that Gawain stays in the home of Bertilak, his interactions with the wife of Bertilak are paralleled in Bertilak’s interactions with Gawain. For each kiss Gawain gives to the Bertilak’s wife, he must give to Bertilak himself. Here we can see that our choices have consequences that reach beyond ourselves and our muses illustrated in an obvious though still subtle way. Eventually, Gawain chooses to value his own life above his word and his code and hides a gift he receives from Bertilak’s wife, thus breaking their agreement. When Gawain and Bertilak have their confrontation in the Green Chapel, Gawain pays the price for his small transgression with a small nick on his neck. His reward for not falling to the seduction attempt is his own life, and his punishment is his neck. In this way, good reaps good and bad reaps bad each in seemingly proportionate amounts. It is unsurprising based upon the level of Christin integration in “Britain” at this point that such a seemingly Christian ideal would emerge in literature. The old testament gives the rule of an eye for an eye. The new testament tells us that the wages of sin are death, and Christ is life. Actions which do not stem from Christ, ergo love, always lead toward negative consequences. Hence, the simple but often forgotten lesson: our choices have physical consequences and beneath them lie eternal
Open Document