Roland's fame is legendary, and so, he seems larger than life to the reader, but not so large that he is unconquerable.
Roland is also extremely proud, and this pride also helps lead to his death. He refuses to sound the oliphant and call back Charlemagne's troops, and so, his pride is larger than his common sense. He says, "Better to die than to learn to live with shame -- / Charles loves us more as our keen swords win fame'" (44). Sadly, too much pride is a sin, but Roland cannot admit this, and cannot admit that he might need help. Oliver is the wiser of the two men, and understands the odds they face, but he cannot convince his friend to call back the King and his men to help in the fight. Oliver rebukes him for his pride, but not until it is too late, and all the Franks are lost on the battlefield.
In battle, Roland is beyond reproach. He is brave beyond belief and travels everywhere on the field. It seems that the Franks may win the battle, and Roland will be triumphant, but there seems to be no end to the Muslim army, and just when it seems the battle is over, a new host of Muslims arrive. Still Roland fights on, and kills numerous Muslims, while urging the men around him to keep fighting. Roland is levelheaded on the battlefield, and always keeps his wits about him. It is easy to see why he has such a reputation, because he is brave, and nothing seems to get in his way. However, his friends fall around him, and he finally admits to himself that he has made a terrible mistake. When he blows the oliphant, it is too late, and the exertion also kills Roland. He has made a poor choice, and he and his men have paid for it.
The poem makes Roland sound almost too good to be true, but he is the model that all good knights wanted to emulate. However, there are some people who do not admire Roland. Count Oliver calls him "fierce, and quick to wrath," (13), and so, some of the knights do not trust Roland, even though he is quite close to the king. He also makes an enemy of his stepfather, Ganelon, when he nominates him as emissary to negotiate with the Muslims, and there is great bitterness between Ganelon, the traitor, and Roland, the brave. Ganelon schemes with the Muslims to eliminate Charlemagne's rear guard, including Roland and his friend, Oliver. He promises Marsile that Charlemagne will lose the will to fight if Roland is killed, and Marsile joins in the plot. For this, Ganelon is executed at the end of the poem. However, his treachery is successful, and Roland is eliminated.
Roland's life seems to end in vain, but his ultimate reward for his faithful service is entry into heaven, a just reward for any good knight. When he dies, angels come down from heaven to lead him to Paradise. The poem states, "God sends from heaven the angel Cherubin / Holy Saint Michael who saves us from the sea, / And with these two the Angel Gabriel flies. / Count Roland's soul they bring to Paradise" (90). Thus, Roland's bravery, valor, boldness, and chivalry are rewarded. He has not been victorious on the battlefield, but he will be victorious in Heaven, and will continue to be a leader and a knight of valor with a reputation that is larger than life. Roland serves as a model for other knights, because he can still lose and grieve for his men, but in the end he is still righteous and rewarded.
In conclusion, Roland is an epic hero in this historic poem, and he is a symbol for knighthood and chivalry. He is brave, bold, unafraid, victorious, and bright, but even he is not invincible. His life is meant to show that those who are true to their beliefs and religion can do mighty things, and will be greeted on their journey to heaven. Roland is magnificent in life, and equally magnificent in death, and he is truly a heroic character - flawed,…