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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

by Pearl-Poet

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How does the Christian allegory in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight compare Gawain's tribulations with Jesus's experiences?

Gawain's travails reflect Jesus's travails since both are tempted. Although Jesus resists his temptations, Gawain gives in but the issue of redemption then enters the picture.

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There are many Christian allusions, symbols, and allegorical threads throughout Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Firstly, the qualities of humility, self-sacrifice, and honor that Sir Gawain demonstrates in the beginning of the story could be aligned with the character of Jesus. Though high-born, Sir Gawain refers to himself as "the weakest, I know, and of wit feeblest. / least worth the loss of my life" (Fitt 1, Stanza 16). Yet, even in his humility, he takes up the challenge that the Green Knight proposes to guarantee the safety of King Arthur's life. Then, Sir Gawain keeps his promise by setting off to find the Green Knight, even though he believes that he may be killed by the Green Knight. Similarly, in the Biblical account, Jesus humbled himself by becoming man and sacrificed himself for the good of those he loved to the point of death.

Later in the story, the three temptations that Sir Gawain faces through the sexual temptations of the lord's wife could be compared to the three temptations that Satan gives Jesus. All temptations appeal to the physical body and personal pride.

The number three is also relevant because it could be interpreted beyond the three temptations. When Christ was killed, there was a three-day period before he was resurrected. In Sir Gawain's case, there is a three-day period between his temptations and his confrontation with the Green Knight. In that confrontation, Sir Gawain gains a deeper understanding of himself and emerges a "new person" in many respects.

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