Grendel Literary Analysis

1006 words - 4 pages

In the novel Grendel by John Gardner, the author uses minor characters that each represents and symbolizes different things. These characters include Unferth, Wealtheow, the Dragon, Hrothgar and Ork. These characters have roles that shape and contribute to the rest of the story. All of these characters have parts that in some way are important to telling Grendel's story even though they do not have a major role.Unferth is one of Hrothgar's thanes and is seen throughout the novel confronting Grendel and putting down Beowulf. He is depicted as being self-absorbed and tries to make himself noticed by attempting to become a hero. An example of this is when he tries to fight Grendel in the mead hall, "Tell them in Hell that Unferth, son of Ecglaf sent you. Known far and wide in these Scanian lands as a hero among the Scyldings" (82). This quote shows that he is very self-absorbed and believes that he can do what ever he wants without considering the consequences. Another role of Unferth is to make Beowulf seem more glorious and brilliant to the reader. Unferth confronts Beowulf about a swimming match and tries to make Beowulf less admired by recalling that he had lost,Say friend, are you the same man that went swimming that time with young Breca-risked your lives in the middle of the winter for nothing-for a crazy meadboast? We heard about that, Nobody could stop you-kings, priests, councilors-nobody. Splash! Uh, uh, uh! The sea boiled with waves fierce winter swells. Seven nights you swam, so people say. And at last Breca beat you, much stronger than you were. He proved his boast against you - for what it may be worth. (160)In this quote Unferth tries to make Beowulf seem weak and powerless. Beowulf tells the group what really happened and that he had really won and not Breca. Unferth's actions contribute to how Beowulf is presented and how the reader feels about him. Beowulf disproving Unferth makes Beowulf seem more honest and heroic.Hrothgar is another character that is seen more frequently in Grendel. Hrothgar has a role of taking in Wealtheow and being her husband. He is seen more frequently but his role is limited and is not clear in the novel even though Grendel refers to Hrothgar frequently. Hrothgar is characterized as being neutral, meaning not good and not bad. He is represented as a leader of the Danes (enemy of Grendel). At page 109, when Grendel was going to kill Wealtheow, Hrothgar did nothing to stop it (even though Grendel changed his mind). This shows that Hrothgar does not really care for his wife.Wealtheow's role in Grendel is to be Hrothgar's wife and be the queen. She is represented as being a pure innocent person who has no evil. In the novel she was given up by her brother to Hrothgar to be a servant, "I offer you my sister, Let her name from now on be Wealtheow, or holy servant of common good" (100). This quote shows...

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