In Beowulf the concept that good and evil are constantly contending is one of the most central themes to the epic. The poet makes it expressly evident that good and evil cannot exist without the other, for there would be no way of determining which was which. The religious undertone in Beowulf that God is intervening on the side of good is apparent in many of the battles fought, allowing Beowulf to prevail where someone evil could not have. Literature has questioned, for centuries, why God would have created a creature such as Satan to cause and teach evil, and what purpose He had for human life. Beowulf stretches itself to answer this question by showing that good cannot be known without a present evil.
Beowulf opens with identity; the need to be known as good or as an enemy is present in the introductions that a man gives himself. Are you a mighty warrior, or are you a monster. There is no in between. Women are products so do not need to be identified, but men fall under two classifications. Throughout the epic we see Beowulf consistently pitted against evil forces in his attempt to keep the peace. “So times were pleasant for the people there until finally one, a fiend out of hell, began to work his evil in the world.” (99-101) Grendel is the immediate enemy to Beowulf, which allows Beowulf to set himself up as good by following the hero’s code, one that requires honor and morality in defending your people no matter what the cost. His identity is crucial in establishing whether or not his ancestors were noble and good, and if his children (should he have any) will follow in his footsteps. You are born with a purpose and a predestined path, one which will decide if God will grant you safety or if he will condemn you to a painful life and a death which leads away from redemption.
Throughout Beowulf we see the testing of morality and the ability to overcome dark forces. Beowulf is constantly put in situations where he must choose whether to defend his people of ignore a problem. Because of his code, and his want to correct wrongs done against his people, he constantly puts himself in danger. Grendel shows the reader that by not following a law or rule set forth by a ruler, he is not only reckless, but has an evil inside that must be thwarted. However if we did not have the knowledge of good and evil, how would we establish that Beowulf’s actions are moral?
Although evil seeps its way into Beowulf’s life we see that this gives him the ability to prove his true character and overcome obstacles repeatedly. Beowulf is constantly proving himself, and making his identity that of one who is a true good and a pillar against evils that try to take over in people’s lives. Beowulf is not spiritually motivated, however the evils that present themselves are monsters that have biblical representation. Grendel is a serpent and a dragon, a monster that cannot be identified. There is an element of beauty in his description, yet it is known inherently that he...