Do The Evil Deserve Sympathy In Grendel Or Beowulf?

1143 words - 5 pages

According to Sympathy can be defined as “the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.” ( Pertinently this definition, as well as the information provided after reading both, The Poem Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel. and the novel Grendel by John Gardner, it appears evident that the character Grendel gains more sympathy from the reader than that of the character Beowulf.
Sympathy's definition, as previously stated implies that one, in this case the reader, can share feelings with another, Grendel, most often said feelings are that of sorrow. One instance, when you can particularly sympathize with Grendel, happens to be when he gets stuck in a tree, and Hrothgar and his men, come upon him, about to be attack:
I shrieked at them, trying to scare them off, but they merely ducked behind bushes and took long sticks from the saddles of their horses, bows and javelins. … I'd never howled more loudly in my life. Darts like hot coals went through my legs and arms and I howled more loudly still. (27)
The reader can interpret and feel the pain, and fear that Grendel endures being put through, as well as the confusion as to why these men are attacking him, when he was only asking for food.
As the story progresses, Grendel becomes entranced with the Thanes, and keeps a constant vigilance on them, One night Grendel, follows the Thanes when they set about defeating another group, The Hemlings, for they were growing far to large, and the King feared that they would take over. Once they appeared at the Hemlings' camp, the two Kings talked about the impending fight, Hrothgar wanting the fight, whereas Hygmod, the Hemling king, attempts to bribe the mighty Hrothgar with jewels, and treasures. When it becomes apparent, that Hrothgar will not accept the offerings, Hygmod has one last offer: “ I offer you my sister” … “Let her name from now on be Wealtheow, or holy servant of common good.” (100) This act angers Grendel:

I leered in the rattling darkness of my tree, The name was ridiculous. “Pompous, Pompous ass!” I hissed. But she was beautiful and she surrendered herself with the dignity of a sacrificial virgin. My chest
was full of pain, my eyes smarted, and I was afraid-- O monstrous trick
against reason-- I was afraid I was about to sob. (100)
In fact, Grendel even sees himself running out to her and groveling at her feet. “ I could see myself leaping from my high tree and running on all fours through the crowd to her, howling, whimpering, throwing myself down, drooling and groveling at her small, fur-booted feet. “Mercy!” ”. It appears obvious to the reader, that Grendel has some sort of compassion with in him, as he knows that Hygmod giving up his sister to Hrothgar appears wrong.
Through out the story, the reader constantly questions Grendel's actions, for one moment he seems like the...

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