In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the hero sets out
on a journey in which he is forced to make moral choices
that ultimately alter his self-knowledge. Gawai:a’s journey
is the direct result of a challenge offered by the Green
Knight under the guise of a Christmas game . Metaphorically,
his actions are reflected by the pentangle, which although
composed of oppositions, always l eads back to itself.
Gawain’3 di7tded consciousness is further symbolized by
the Virgin- shield, which alludes to cari~as, and the magic
girdle, which alludes to cupiditas . Their opposition forms
the basic conflict of the poem: between spirit and flesh.
These symbols ini~iate two sequences of action wherein
Gawain is tested, fails and is absolved . He retur~s to
C:!lmelo-r: a new man, wiser for his folly, a true exemola1· of
Christiani-r:,y as symbolized by the penta~gle virtues .
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