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Grendel Critical Essay

832 words - 4 pages

John Gardner’s Grendel explores the life of an ambitious monster from childhood to adulthood. Grendel is separated from other living beings in the underworld where he and his mother live. After he realizes that there is an outside world, he longed to experience it; however, he is neither accepted by the animals or humans. He watches over the humans in amazement and disgust. He tortures, kills, and mocks them for being wasteful liars because the faults of human nature annoy him to the point of destruction. At the same time, Grendel recognizes the beauty and danger of humans, and has some of the same inner conflicts the men bear. His outward appearance becomes enough to draw a line between friend and enemy, and causes a division between two similar worlds of evil. As a monster, Grendel’s story of rejection, fascination with mankind, and cursed blood, illuminates the idea that there must be evil in society for the force of good to survive.
Grendel, a grotesque, infantile, yet intelligent monster could not rely on his mother to guide him through his journey from the mere into the outside world, so he did so alone only to awake to rejection. Grendel describes a time as a child when he adventured out of his mere and becomes trapped in a tree and looked for his mother, “but there was nothing, or, rather, there was everything but my mother” (Gardner 19). When he realized that he could not rely on his mother for everything, he loses a part of his innocence. Eventually a group of men found Grendel, and to his surprise he understood these strange men’s language. However, the humans could not understand the monster and attacked him. In the beginning, Grendel could not communicate with the world around him and wished to be like the humans. Humans are powerful, yet flawed with insularity. For example, when Grendel was still stuck in the tree and the men attacked him, the readers witness Grendel’s first retaliation towards humans. By bringing Grendel to violence, Hrothgar’s men killed his eager mind and created his monstrosity. “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings” (Gardner 80). Fueled by rejection, Grendel kills and destroys lives because he believes there is no meaning to life.
Impelled by isolation, Grendel is looking for a place to belong. His disconnection from life encourages him to watch over the humans, almost to the point of obsession. It is through this...

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