Archetypes In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

Decent Essays
In the groundbreaking work of comparative mythology, Hero With A Thousand Faces, Campbell defines archetypes as “representation[s] of the irrepresentable…smaller images of the greater (Campbell lvii). These “smaller images of the greater” throughout medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contribute to demonstrating the overall theme of human tendency toward reducing past events to superficial ones to the reader. Misfortune strikes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight when knight Sir Gawain engages in a celebration with his fellow knights and uncle King Arthur at Camelot. An unexpected visitor known as the Green Knight interrupts the festivity and challenges the King Arthur’s knights to a suicide quest. After Sir Gawain accepts, follows through with, but ultimately fails the proposed challenge, the people of Camelot positively receive him. Most interestingly, the belt that symbolises Sir Gawain’s failure to Sir Gawain himself becomes a symbol of triumph for the people of Camelot upon his return. Through his journey, Sir Gawain becomes aware of the weakness of flesh while the people of Camelot remain willfully ignorant. The dual nature of how the hero and the community view the boon reflects the illumination gained by the hero but lacking in the common person.
The manner in which the Sir Gawain gains the boon in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight provides insight into the Sir Gawain’s perception of its symbolism. According to Campbell, the boon acts as “life-transmuting
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