"Beowulf" And "Sir Gawain": Compare And Contrast

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Throughout this poem, there are various factors that demonstrate to us what a hero is defined as. A hero is a person with noble qualities who is courageous, brave, and idolized by many people. They often put their life at risk for other people’s greater good making them certainly heroes and don't lack confidence when it comes to handling a situation. In the poems, “Sir Gawain” and “Beowulf” are both faced with major conflicting problems yet manage to push through them. Although both are portrayed as perfect heroes with all these amazing qualities, behind them are many imperfections.

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As stated in the first paragraph, a hero possesses great qualities (such as loyalty, boldness, gallant, etc…). Beowulf’s heroism is constantly tested in the poem “Beowulf” yet, he continues to fight since nobody else was willing to step up and do it. Grendel, an evil demon, had been attacking Herol Hall and Hrothgar was not able to protect his people due to old age. Beowulf then offers to fight Grendel himself to prevent any more attacks in a hand-to-hand battle. During Grendel's next attack, Beowulf was a present waiting for him. They fought resulting in Grendal getting injured and then later fleeing into the woods and dying. He was titled a hero because nobody else was able to diminish Grendel, he could not even be defeated by normal weapons. Hrothgar gifts Beowulf with many presents, and treasures and even celebrates by throwing a party. He is rewarded because he was bold enough to volunteer his life when nobody else was willing to complete the task. Beowulf was then seen as a hero however his intentions were not pure. He only decided to offer his help to gain himself some fame and glory.

Unlike Beowulf, Gawain in “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” is described and known as one of the noblest knights among all. He possessed the qualities that made him a true hero and although at first, he was a bit thoughtless, along the way he proved himself. In this poem, Gawain is present at a feast when suddenly, The Green Knight shows up announcing a game proposal; he requests for one of the legendary knights to chop off his head and meet him a year later so he can return the ax-blow. Shocked by his request no body volunteered to cause various factors to demonstrate the king to take up the challenge. Gawain then voluntarily intervenes when nobody else does and argues that the king should not have to participate in such a “silly” game. Sir Gawain goes up to The Green Knight and chops his head off but instead of dropping down dead, the Green Knight instead picks up his head. When the time comes, Gawain goes on a quest to find the Green Chapel. Along the journey, he battles monsters, travels through extreme weather, and once Christmas creeps up he finds a castle where he is warmly welcomed and invited to stay for the holidays by a lord and his gorgeous lady. Once the feast is over he decides it’s time to continue his journey but the lord offers him to stay longer and in exchange, he would guide him to his destination. They begin a game that ends in Gawain receiving a green griddle from the lady making him immortal. He continues his search and eventually finds the chapel where the Knight is located. He brings the ax down twice and strikes him the third, however, Gawain survives. The Green Knight reveals he was the lord who hospice him and forgives Gawain for failing to save his life and not being dishonorable. There are various examples of heroism such as when Gawain decided to put his life before the king’s when nobody else would. Because of this major event, Gawain is seen as a true hero. He demonstrated his strength, loyalty, and honor.

In literature, both Sir Gawain and Beowulf are heroes and represent well in their own stories. They both go on dangerous adventures and face difficult challenges throughout their journeys to beat evil. Beowulf fights the evil monsters that lurk around and tries to cause any harm to his people. In his battle with Grendel, he was able to successfully slay the demon although nobody was able to before. This caused others to view him as a hero because who else would risk their lives for others? Even after the battle, Grendel’s mother was set on avenging her son's death. Beowulf, just like he slays Grendel, slays his mother as well. Sir Gawain is seen as a hero as well, both demonstrated their heroism in different ways. Both are a representation of goodness, however, Gawain is portrayed as a noble knight who remained true to himself even when caught in a situation. It also showed his loyalty, as he volunteered to prevent King Arthur from participating in the Green Knights game.

Although both of these stories are similar in their way, there are differences in the way they present heroism. Gawain is recognized as a passive hero as Beowulf is part of an epic story. Gawain puts himself in a difficult position to save The King's life over his, while Beowulf takes on monsters attacking Hrothgar and other evil lurking around. Also, although Gawain was hesitant of volunteering at first, he did so to show loyalty to the king. When he lied to the Green Knight and was caught, he admitted to not being fair. This demonstrates how he was willing to face his imperfections and was honorable in the end. Beowulf on the other hand only volunteered to receive fame and glory to one day become king. In the poem, it stated, “ But Beowulf only longing for fame, leaped into battle”. After he successfully defeats Grendel he continues fighting in return for even greater amounts of fame.         

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“Beowulf” And “Sir Gawain”: Compare And Contrast. (2022, August 16). WritingBros. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/beowulf-and-sir-gawain-compare-and-contrast/
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“Beowulf” And “Sir Gawain”: Compare And Contrast [Internet]. WritingBros. 2022 Aug 16 [cited 2023 Jun 8]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/beowulf-and-sir-gawain-compare-and-contrast/
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