Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Journeys to Knowledge “Every beginning comes from some other beginnings end” (Closing time by Semisonic). In The Confessions by St. Augustine and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by W. S. Merwin, St. Augustine and Sir Gawain embark on Journeys to find the best way to live their lives and then begin a new Journey of spreading the lessons they learned and the people they have become to the people around them. Although sir Gawain knows he is on a Journey to the Green Chapel, he does not realize that it will lead to him testing his virtues as well as making him a better knight. Similarly, St.
Augustine does not realize that all along he was meant to become exactly what his mother urged and hoped he would become. If he had listened to his mother and followed God in the first place, he may not have been as strong of a leader and certainly would not have been as influential of a person as he is known for. The lessons they learn are ones that ultimately change their outlooks and persuade them to better their lives. Firstly, St. Augustine and Sir Gawain were proud of the men they were while they were embarking on their Journeys; however the type of people they ere differ from one another.
Sir Gawain was known to be a “good knight and gold purified, clear of every crudeness, graced and protected by virtues” (Merwin 633), proving he was already a good knight. He carried a shield on his path to the Green Chapel that represented all of his virtues through the five point of the pentangle on his shield: five faith wounds, five Joys of the Queen of heaven, five unfailing fingers, five faultless senses, and five qualities he possessed. His values on his shield are put to the test when he takes part in his adventure through woods, the freezing cold, and he temptation of the lord’s wife.
For example, his courtesy is tested when the wife of the lord tries to get him to kiss her and he does not know how to respond because it is courteous to do as she says but he does not want to kiss the lord’s wife because it is also disrespectful to the lord, however he kisses her anyway to prove he wants to remain courteous since he is most famously known for being a gentleman. In the case of St. Augustine, he is not known to be a good person at first and believes in the truth and only the truth; however he believes he is correct in thinking the way he oes and following the religion he does.
He proves to be a corrupt person when as a child, he steal pears from a tree Just because it gives him a rush, and when he becomes older he becomes a believer of Manichaeism, the religion of truth. However, his belief in Manichaeism is tested during his time as a lawyer and when he has to talk badly against the church which ultimately leads to his coming to Catholicism. St. Augustine was also tempted by several women during his Journey which is similar to Sir Gawain’s temptation. The way their lessons affect them differ through the fact that
Sir Gawain simply improved on the values and beliefs he already had in the beginning of them poem, continuing to be known as a noble knight, where St. Augustine completely changed his way of life and how he thought by the end of his journey by becoming holy and getting rid of his old ways of evil. Another similarity during their voyage is how they were both tempted by something that could have ultimately caused them to do something evil/ ennoble. For St. Augustine, it was his for Sir Gawain it was the green girdle that tempted him to give up his honesty in order to save his life from the Green Knight in their future battle.
Both of these instances can be related to the story of Adam and Eve, since Eve listened to the snake and ate the apple from the tree when God told her not too. God could have been putting St. Augustine through the same test as he did with Eve to see if he would be worthy enough, or He could have purposely let him go through with it so he was able to eventually look back on his life and tell what he did wrong so that when he preached to his followers he would not Just be telling stories about the bible but would be able to give his own life experiences to make it more believable.
Also, since e had sinned so much he was able to become a better Christian because he wanted to devote his life towards making up for all his sins since he was so angry that he did them, as shown when he says, “then I read, Let your anger deter you from sin, and how these words moved me, my God! I had already learned to feel for my past sins an anger with myself that would hold me back from sinning again” (St. Augustine ‘X, 4, 10). Similarly Sir Gawain wanted to make up for the sin of keeping the green belt, so he vowed to pursue a life of honesty.
Sir Gawain can be connected to Eve through heir objects and their reasoning for giving into the temptation. Most snakes are considered to be green Just like the green girdle Sir Gawain was tempted by; more importantly, green symbolizes selfishness which is present in both stories. Sir Gawain only wanted the belt because he wanted to save his own life and Eve wanted the apple because she wanted the knowledge it was said to have. So by giving into their “green” desires they disobeyed the orders or deals they made with God and lord Bercilak.
Another way both pieces connect to the story of Adam and Eve is that the ivotal moments in each of the stories take place in a garden setting. In Adam and Eve, Eve commits the sin of taking the apple in the Garden of Eden, Sir Gawain realizes that he has to be less selfish and more honest at the garden where the Green Chapel is, and St. Augustine comes to his conversion in a garden as well. Relating back to the temptations of women both Sir Gawain and St. Augustine had, Adam was also influenced by Eve to act sinfully, and proving the influential power a woman can have over a man if they are willing to let her.
Both St. Augustine and Sir Gawain have faith in God and Catholicism at some point of their Journey that helps them go forward in life. Sir Gawain puts his faith in Mary as shown when he “had painted her portrait on the inside of his shield, so that when his glance fell on it his heart would never falter” (Merwin 648). However, St. Augustine ends his Journey finding God and believing in God to guide him through the rest of his life so he can fulfill a life of Christianity and spread the word of the Lord. Another similarity is the way St.
Augustine comes to his conversion and the way Sir Gawain learns from the Green Knights’ game. Both men needed some action to start the conversion whither it was being hit lightly with an axe or seeing the death of several innocent people because of something you allowed. However, St. Augustine was more afraid and took a longer time coming around because he “could form no resolve to enter into covenant with [God], though in [his] bones [he] knew that this was something [he] ought to do” (St. Augustine VIII, 8, 19).
He was afraid that God would not fully forgive all the sins he committed and but he knew at that moment in the garden that this is omparison, felt shame right away and said that since he was being a coward and did not want to give up his own life he gave up some of his virtues. After the event happened, the Green knight gave him the belt as a reminder of how he should not be as much of a coward and be more honest, so when he returned to the round table he shared his story and encouraged the other men to listen to the lesson.
They admired the story so much that they all wore green girdles to remind them, to keep passing on the lesson. Likewise, during his confirmation St. Augustine was given the bible and old to read it and this bible became the symbol of his change and through this he was able to continue to pass the word of the Lord on to his followers, as well as through The Confessions to prevent his followers from making the same mistakes he did.
Although the message from each of the Journeys is different from another Sir Gawain and St. Augustine share many of the same struggles and temptations along the way. Both pieces can be viewed as religious since main religious figures such as God and Mary are presented multiple times throughout. They also have Religious tories such as Adam and Eve that relate closely to their actions and thoughts. However, Sir Gawain and St.
Augustine have different personalities leading up to the end of their Journey causing them either to approve upon themselves or to completely change how they acted and what they thought was morally right. The Green Girdle and the bible served as important reminders to continue to improve on themselves and listen to the values they now hold. All in all, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Confessions stress that every Journey ends with self- acceptance, changing the path they were currently on, to start to embark on a new one.