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Grendel Vs. Beowulf Essay

921 words - 4 pages


Grendel

     One of the most compelling and highly developed characters in the novel Grendel, written by John Gardner, and the poem Beowulf, written by an anonymous poet, is the monster, Grendel. Even though these pieces show two different sides to Grendel they are similar in many ways. Grendel evokes sympathy toward the hideous monster by making him seem like the victim, while Beowulf portrays him as being the most loathsome of enemies. The reasons behind Grendel’s being, his killing, and finally his death make him one of the most controversial and infamous monsters in literature. Grendel is the man-killing monster that Beowulf portrayed him as being, yet he is also the lonely victim of a judgmental world.
Grendel is a descendent of Cain and is forced to live with the inherited curse of being denied God’s presence. Cain’s lineage has been known to spawn monsters, trolls, giants, and other undesirable beings, all of which were rejected from society. Beowulf and Grendel both speak of Grendel’s ancestor Cain, almost as if using it as an excuse for his rash and murderous actions. Beowulf told of a Grendel that mercilessly attacked Hrothgar’s meadhall killing men without reason. Grendel also speaks of this evil monster, but in a more sympathetic and excusable manner. Grendel is thought of as “the guardian of sins'; and is the physical equivalent to a man that has been shunned by God. He is described as a hideous bear like ogre in human like shape. Both literary pieces tell of his extraordinary strength and size and his similarities to the early ideas of Satan. The poet in Beowulf also mentions that despite his strength and magnitude, Grendel is not comparable to the devil despite his truly evil ideals. It is made clear that he has no other choice but to be this way, and there must be an evil force in all societies to distinguish the heroes from the cowardly thanes. This is made evident in Grendel when during the dragon’s speech to Grendel he says, “You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain. If you withdraw, you’ll instantly be replaced. Brute existence, you know, are a dime a dozen.'; The dragon is saying that even if Grendel decides to change his course in life and never kill another man, nothing will change. Man will be forced to find a new monster to wage war against, for good can not exists without some evil. Beowulf also hints at this by referring to Beowulf’s first battle with the nicors in his childhood swimming race against Brecca. Without his defeat of the nicors, Beowulf would not have become thought of as a hero and therefore would never have been sent to protect...

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