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A Critical Look at Sir Gawain and the Green Knight From the first time I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight I have been troubled by the question of whether Sir Gawain was right or wrong in lying in order to keep the girdle and save his life He was torn between the preciousness of his own life and the sanctity of chivalry and its codes He was forced to ask himself what he valued more his reputation or his life Many scholars have struggled with this question for centuries as well as the questions of how guilty he really felt for his actions and what the poet is trying to tell the reader through Gawains ordeal There is another side to the question about Sir Gawains decision to use the green girdle While honesty should be highly valued it may be unwise to undervalue life itself In almost every culture as well as Sir Gawains death is recognized as a terrifying thing which men and animals alike try to escape by every device in their power regardless of dignity or duty Burrow The Third Fit 37 It may be even more difficult to place an overriding significance on the value of honesty in light of lifes alternative images of death permeate the medieval world Clein 55 A modern reader of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight should gain an understanding of what death meant within the cultural milieu which surrounded the Gawain writer In her book Concepts of Chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Wendy Clein describes the chivalric approach to death as an uncomfortable and awkward marriage between the warriors code on one side and Christianity of the antithetical side The warrior code calls for the knight to defy death in acts of heroism and thereby gain worldly fame 55 However the Christian doctrine demands that the knight surrender worldly fame and accept death as a passage from this imperfect
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