Role of honor in chivalric culture and contemporary South Korean culture
In the chivalric culture, shame and honor have significant implications for the life of the people. Knights in the chivalric culture are susceptible to shame based on their actions. As “The Knight of the Sword” illustrates, the general population ascribe significant honor to the knights in the land. However, the ascription of honor depends on the actions of the Knights. Some actions may go against the knightly expectations, hence, leading to shame. Several examples are apparent in the text. For instance, Sir Gawain meets another knight in his adventures who honors him by inviting Gawain to his castle. However, the events that follow illustrate that acting against the expectations of a knight could lead to dishonor or shame. For example, Sir Gawain could not fulfil his desires with the knight’s (host) daughter because of the eminent death from the enchanted sword. However, the disclosure of such information to his land would cause him dishonor and shame.
The contemporary South Korean culture also shows a significant reverence of honor and shame. In the South Korean culture, honor is associated to the fulfilment of commitments, especially among women. On the contrary, women are shamed for not fulfilling their “commitments” in marriage. For example, the actor, Choi Jin-Sil was judged as not maintaining moral honor, despite seeking divorce because of domestic abuse. The shame associated with such events leads to adverse outcomes. For instance, Jin-Sil committed suicide, and sparked a wave of suicide among the South Koreans, including her brother. As the text reveals, the public messages in the country show that the shame of losing a relative to suicide is more than the circumstances that lead to the suicide. Essentially, this shows that the South Koreans understanding of honor is living according to the societal ideals an fulfilling the expectations of the society, which are often gender-based.
In the chivalric and South Korean cultures, the role of honor and shame has several similarities and differences. For instance, both cultures understand honor based on the fulfilment of expectations. In the chivalric culture, a knight who fails to fulfil his “desires” may end up being dishonoured. Similarly, the general South Korean population will judge failed marriages as a failure to maintain honor. Essentially, the two cultures show that honor is equivalent to life and traditions shape the fulfilment of honor. In both cases, the people fear losing their honor more than they fear the circumstances that cause the dishonour. However, the social position of knights (males) in the chivalric culture dictates the ascriptions of honor. Conversely, the South Korean culture honor to the observance of traditions among women. While in the Korean culture honor could be regained through living, the chivalric culture considers the loss of life as better than shame.
The North American culture does not have many of the characteristics of both chivalric and South Korean culture. Essentially, North Americans have a highly liberal culture. While honor and shame have a role in the society, they are not associated significantly with such gender-based commitments and obligations. Indeed, the North American culture may consider some issues, for example, divorce emanating from domestic abuse, as an honorable act.