Satire in Grendel
"The state is an organization of violence, a monopoly in what it is pleased to call legitimate violence (Gardner, 119)." This excerpt from John Gardner's Grendel shows one of the many issues he deals with in his satire of man, and that is the issue of the use of violence in society. Gardner shows this throughout the book, but most prominently in chapter eight, in which we learn of the arrival of Hrothulf, Hrothgar's nephew, at Herot.
Hrothgar recognizes the evil in Hrothgar's kingdom. He discusses the problems of the government with an old man known as "Red Horse". The point made in the opening quote is that "Men's violence is chained to good (i.e., to the king): legitimate force that chops off the bread-thief's neck and wipes its axe. Death by the book (Gardner, 114)." This means that the government punishes civilian violence, as well as other crimes, by using the same violence it has prohibited, but viewing it as "legitimate" violence. Hrothulf states that "by violence they lock us in - you and me, old man: subdue our vile, unkingly violence (Gardner, 114)". This points out the wrongdoing of the government and demonstrates it by showing how the ruling class uses the same violence it condemns to punish and control the population when they step out of line. This is a satirical look at our sense of freedom.
As a society, we often feel we are free. But are we? What is this freedom we think we have? Gardner shows us that the government's main objective is to "satisfy the greed of the majority, the rest will do you no harm. That's it. You've still got your fiction of consent (Gardner, 118)". And if things go wrong, the government's immediate reaction is to use force to gain their objective.
Chapter eight states that "when men quit work, the police...