How the theme of self-awareness, features in Sir Gawain, the Green Knight?


Howthe theme of self-awareness, features in Sir Gawain, the GreenKnight?

Self-awareness can be defined as a conscious knowledge or familiarity withone’s character, personality, motives, desires and even feelings.The theme has been demonstrated in Sir Gawain, the Green Knight, in avarious ways.

Self-awarenessfeatures in the poem, when the Green Knight plays the role of a layconfessor. The Green Knight acknowledges Gawain’s contribution andgives absolution. His confession‘’ I halde hit hardilyly hole,pe harme pat I hade. Pou art confessed so clene, beknowen of pymysses (p 2390-94), shows his potential acknowledgement of hismistake predominantly his traitorous violation of the ‘’ exchangeof winning’’ covenant that he made with Bercilak. We see Gawainchanging his stand and accepts the confessional forgiveness that isoffered to him (Blanch and Wasserman, p42). It can be stated thatGawain receives or accepts the apology offered to him by the GreenKnight having gained self – self-awareness that compelled him toaccept the apology. In addition, in order for the Green Knight tooffer the apology he was driven by self- awareness, whereby herealized that he had actually made a mistake.

The themeof self-awareness also features in the poem when Giwain gets ready to depart in order to accomplish the second section of the challenge given by Green Knight . When leaving for themission Gawain makes a confession by affirming ‘’ In destinieshappy or sad, true men can just try ‘’ (p564-565). It can bestated that this particular statement captures the reality of self-awareness. Gawain realizes that even as a man sometimes there aresituations or circumstances that are difficult to handle.Consequently, a manjust has to try despite of the existingchallenges.

The poet also depicts the theme of self-awareness by presenting thehero of the poem Gawain as an individual who is not aware aboutcertain things concerning himself.This lack of self –awarenessis for instancedemonstrated in p 915- 925, which states ‘’Wich spede is in speche vnspurd may we lerne, Syn we haf fonged patfine lader of nature……… I hope pat may hym here schal lerne ofluf-talkyng. The stanza does not actually demonstrate that Gawainhas knowledge concerning the perception of the public towards him asthe ‘’ father of nature ‘’. However, he was soon toexperience an intimidating expression concerning himself when he gotto the bedroom. The lack of self- awareness by Gawain is useful inpropagating the theme of self-awareness.

Additionally, the poet also uses identities such as names in order tobring out the theme of self-awareness. The use of the name SirGawain should denote a physically active man with masculine prowess. Such attributes should definitely lead a reader to the knowledge thatwhen Sir Gawain is confronted with different situations, he would usehis masculine prowess in order to resolve the situation. We howeversee Gawain as a man who has not identified himself with theattributes that are linked to his name or his masculinity traits. Forinstance Gawain encounters three sexual temptations. It is expectedoften that a real man who identifies himself as a man, can takeadvantage of the existing situation in order to practice hismusicality.However, the sexual energies used by Lady Bertilak inorder to instigate the temptation are subdued into just a few kisses(Plummer,p197-198) . What is evident from this particular occurrenceis that the poet tries to show that Gawain is a man who is fullyaware of is masculine capability however he does not act towards thedemands of his male attributes. When the Lady Bertilak comes to bedand offers herself to him, he indeed feels attracted to her howeverhe remains steady and does not comply with her demands. When comparedto other romances it can stated that Sir Gawain is so conspicuouslylacking. This lacking can basically be associated to his self-awareness where he believes that he did not have to confirm to thelusts of his flesh.

Akey element of the theme of self- awareness depicted in the poem isthrough the issue of human morality. The poet tries to demonstrateusing the actions of the various characters that self – awarenesscan actually influence the morality of human beings. Sir Gawainacknowledges the fact that although he did not sin by falling intothe sexual temptation, however, he admits that to some extent he didthe wrong thing by kissing Lady Bertilak. He therefore goes to thepriest and repents of the sin. This action portrays that when humanbeings acknowledge their faults then they can influence their moralchoices. Self-awareness is therefore a key theme that influenceshuman morality.


The discussion above has presented various views concerning the themeof self-awareness in Sir Gawain, the Green Knight. Some of the keyareas discussed include the idea that self- awareness features todemonstrate the issue of human morality. Additionally, the poetillustrates the theme through identities such as name and thecharacters/action of the characters. In conclusion, it can be statedthe poet demonstrates the theme of self- awareness in a precisemanner.


BlanchRobert and Wasserman Julian. From Pearl to Gawain: Forme toFynisment. University Press of Florida, 1995, p42.

Plummer,John . Signifying the Self. Whitson Publishing Company. p 197-198.

SirGawain and the Green Knight&quot. British Literature.