Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Questions and Answers
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Will Sir Gawain pass or fail the test? What are hardships in terms of loyalty, honesty, and mortality Gawain faces?

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Despite being initially presented as a noble knight, Sir Gawain does in fact fail the test. He does not lose every battle, but he does, so to speak, lose the war.

Gawain's first test deals with courage. When the Green Knight appears at court asking for someone to take up his game, only Gawain accepts the challenge, proving he is the bravest in Camelot. He beheads the Green Knight, then agrees to accept a return blow come the next year. However, it is one thing to agree to die and another thing to face death, and it is in facing death that Gawain falters.

When he stays at Bertilak's castle, his loyalty and courtliness are tested by the beautiful Lady Bertilak. She gives him kisses while he is in bed and visits his chambers. To his credit, Gawain never sleeps with Lady Bertilak and keeps his hands off of her, but he does accept her kisses. When she cannot seduce him sexually, Lady Bertilak tempts him with safety from death in the form of an allegedly enchanted girdle. The girdle has sexual connotations, being a form of women's clothing, but Gawain, fearing death, accepts it and wears it when he goes to accept a return blow from the Green Knight.

Gawain's ultimate failure comes when he faces the Green Knight. When the Green Knight swings his weapon at Gawain's neck, Gawain flinches, betraying his fear. It turns out the girdle was not magic and that the whole game was a test—which Gawain has failed.

Rather than despair, Gawain takes his failure as a learning opportunity. He keeps the girdle to remind himself of his own imperfection and strives to be a better knight in the years ahead.

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