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The Characters' Personalities In "Grendel" And "Beowulf"

1057 words - 4 pages

The book Grendel, written by John Gardner, and the poem Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, both have very distinct opinions on what role each character plays. The translator of Beowulf and the writer of Grendel follow the idea that everyone has a story. A story is the writer’s perspective on a character’s personality, the way people in the story see and treat the character, and the way it ties the ideas together. There are many examples in these two writings of this concept, but the main instances connect with the lives of Grendel, Beowulf, and Unferth.
Our first character, Grendel, is an exceptionally diverse character. It is implied that in both book and poem, Grendel is a blood-thirsty monster. All Grendel does is go through meadhalls and kill the drunk, often asleep people. But when narrated through the eyes of Grendel, the true nature of this beast is discovered. The author of Grendel entails that Grendel is a depressed and misunderstood monster, restrained to the confinements of his own underwater cave. He is a lot like the monster in the book Frankenstein. Both Grendel and Frankenstein are born with no real purpose to life, going off of what they hear other people say and taking it as the truth. Both monsters, knowing that everyone detests them for being unattractive and different, retaliate by way of murder and mayhem. From the perspective of the people in the stories itself, Grendel is exactly how the narrator in the poem Beowulf makes him out to be. The people, or the thanes, of Hrothgar’s kingdom see Grendel as a demon from hell, representing all that’s evil in the world. He’s a supernatural creature and in this time period anything supernatural that wasn’t human was considered a spirit, a god, evil or, in Grendel’s case, a threat to the kingdom. Through all this Grendel becomes somewhat psychotic in the aspect that he is repulsed by everything good and righteous and anything bad and inhuman makes this creature ecstatic. This way of thinking leads Grendel to be the assassin we know him as today.
A great character to include in this topic is Unferth. Unferth is a very out of the ordinary individual. In Beowulf, the writer’s perspective on Unferth is a pathetic warrior who couldn’t win even the simplest of fights. When first introduced in the poem Beowulf, it’s hard to feel sympathy for Unferth because he is in verbal conflict with Beowulf, insulting Beowulf. When switching to the outside view in the book Grendel, it becomes apparent that Unferth isn’t just doing this to pick a fight. Grendel has been his arch enemy ever since the twelve year war started. Unferth was embarrassed and infuriated in his first meeting with Grendel when Grendel said “I’m going to carry you back to Hrothgar, safe and sound” (p.90). The other people in the book think he’s supposed to be the savior of the kingdom, yet he can’t even come close to killing Grendel and when he does attempt to kill Grendel, Grendel just laughs and teases him. This idea...

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