Self Deception is the practice in which one denies or rationalizes the relevance, consequence or magnitude of evidence that opposes their arguments or beliefs. It entails convincing oneself of a reality hence one does not expose self-acquaintance of a lie. People mislead themselves into accepting claims as realities when they are not true because of self deception. Hence, self-deception is a way through which people justify lies about themselves. Self-deception can be analyzed through examination of a person’s interests, insecurity, greed and desires. This paper examines self-deception in the poem titled “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. It hopes to show the existence of self-deception in the poem.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a story based on a beheading game. On New Year’s Day, a green knight appeared and proposed a friendly game. It was a beheading game, and one of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain, accepted the challenge. He stroke the head of the green knight. However, the knight did not die. Instead, Sir Gawain had to go to the Green Chapel to continue with the game. At the Green Chapel, the green knight was to strike Sir Gawain’s head three times in an attempt to behead him. In case he was not beheaded after three strikes, he was to be free to defend himself. Self-deception is displayed from the onset of the poem. Sir Gawain attempted to demonstrate fidelity and chivalry as much as he could. However, his honor is questionable after the wife of the green knight, Lady Bertilak, tested him (Battles, 2012). When he left for the Green Chapel, he tried to show confidence and bravery. The willingness of Sir Gawain to face the Green Knight was admirable and heroic. He did not want to show fear and appear as a coward. However, the truth is that he is a coward and feared death. Hence, he did not tell Bertilak about the belt that Lady Bertilak gave him (McAllister, 2004). The belt was to protect him from physical harm. He took the belt to protect himself since he was to face the green knight the next day. Thus, Sir Gawain deceived himself. He believed that he is brave and a hero yet he is a coward who fears death and would do anything to stay alive.
Self-deception is also shown in the manner in which Sir Gawain behaved when he encountered problems. He was a Christian and prayed when he met some challenges. Thus, he attempted to show that he does not believe in worldly things. However, he believes in earthly things when he faces crises even though he denies it. Sir Gawain faced numerous trials when he was on his way to the Green Chapel. These challenges tested his devotion to Christianity and his faith in God. He got lost on his way to the Green Chapel. He decided to put his faith in God and prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance. Only after the prayer did he find the right way to the Green Chapel (Battles, 2012). At Bertilak’s house, he is given a green girdle that has magical powers. The girdle is to protect him from physical harm. He leaves Bertilak’s house to continue with his journey to the Green Chapel. However, he gets lost once again on his way to meet the Green Knight. Nonetheless, he does not pray to the Virgin Mary for help this time round. Instead, he puts his faith on the green girdle that Lady Bertilak gave him. This shows that he puts his faith on worldly things. His behavior contradicts the Christian beliefs that he upholds. At Christian viewpoint, belief in worldly things result in disastrous consequences. Bertilak knew all that had transpired and proved to Sir Gawain that the girdle could not protect him by making a small scar on his neck.
Finally, the acceptance of the green girdle also shows self-deception as is depicts Sir Gawain as greedy and covetous. He was to return whatever he gained to his host. However, he returned the kisses but retained the girdle on the third day. Some scholars have argued that greed made him to retain the girdle. On the other hand, he wants to be seen as a perfect knight who is not covetous and greedy (McAllister, 2004). The girdle belonged to Bertilak and Sir Gawain should have returned it. Thus, greed may be the reason why Sir Gawain accepted the girdle as a pure token at the end. He may not have accepted it as a reminder of the shame. It is important to note that the girdle was made of gold. Gold is a highly valued stone in monetary terms. Hence, Sir Gawain could have accepted the girdle because of its monetary worth and not due to its symbolism.
Self-deception is the practice in which one rationalizes or denies the relevance or magnitude of evidence that opposes their beliefs or arguments. The aim of this paper was to examine and show the existence of self-deception in the poem titled “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. It has showed and examined the existence of self-deception through analysis of the behavior of Sir Gawain. He believed that he is brave yet he is a coward. He also believed in Christianity and prayer yet he puts his faith on the green girdle. Finally, he wanted to be seen as a perfect knight yet he accepted the green girdle because of its material worth. These behaviors show the existence of self-deception.