Monsters havoc in the Heoret. However, in

Monsters within Beowulf and Grendel are outcasts to society despite being an embodiment of our insecurities and fears. Monsters are at the margins of what is believed to be real and by creating monsters, deviants, and outcasts in imaginary or realistic world’s, literature allows for the exploration the social and psychological mechanisms that drive our fears. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, in Monster Culture, adheres to the fact that “The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy (Ataractic or incendiary), giving them life and an uncanny independence” (Cohen 4). Monsters reflect our fears/anxieties as a society. We make patsies of our monsters, attributing to them our own faults while using them as vehicles for future transfers of what is prohibited or restricted by social custom. Grendel, the monster from Beowulf, is depicted as one that is malicious and seeks to kill and cause havoc in the Heoret. However, in the book Grendel, written in Grendel’s perspective, Grendel is proved to perform such actions because of his hard past growing up, and always found himself depressed by not being accepted by anyone; and not having a mother to communicate his meaning of life with. He is not fond of the happiness and noise of the relaxed men in the Heroet as he has never experienced such a thing. The “monster” Grendel was born because of his desire to create havoc having anxiety in his past growing up. Grendel makes clear of his isolation with his statement “Not, of course, that I fool myself with thoughts that I’m more noble. Pointless, ridiculous monster crouched in the shadows, stinking of dead men, murdered children, martyred cows. (I am neither proud nor ashamed, understand. One more dull victim, leering at seasons that were never meant to be observed.) “Ah, sad one, poor old freak!” (Gardner 6) Grendel knows that to some degree, he is no better than the brute creatures that annoy him so much. He opens his life story with the firm belief that he is and always will be on the outside of everything: he’s a freak of nature, an omnivorous murderer, a creature that has no business existing at all. We use monsters to take everything we dislike about ourselves as humans, and also all of those animalistic instincts we suppress, and put them into one form. We lock those away so we are not reminded of them; and we take them out when we want to create a story – when we want to speculate from far away and see what happens. The idea of Grendel being an embodiment of an outcast ultimately exposes the Anglo-Saxon people’s weaknesses their doubts and anxieties towards the traditional values that bounded nearly every aspect of their life.  Monsters represent unspoken aspects which trouble cultures; and they will always remain with us. Cultures cannot be depicted as perfect; and the imperfections within one derive from the monsters we create. By creating monsters consisting of our flaws-we are indeed what precludes a perfect culture. Cohen addressed the idea that “Monsters must be examined within the intricate matrix of relations (social, cultural, and literary-historical) that generate them” (Cohen 5) Cohen stresses the fact that monsters have to be identified regarding their culture and social background. Monsters don’t leave the society their born into, but tend to impact it with their meaning. Monsters are identified based on different aspects of society. Beowulf  had it’s monster created based on culture of the setting; and within the novel, Grendel is occulant, demonic and aggressive and that they cannot be beat and cause havoc and terror to wherever they attack. Different societies create a monster based on their individual beliefs in different forms based on the social and cultural era of society. Cohen alludes to this fact in his fifth theses; “The monster prevents mobility, delimiting the social spaces through which private bodies may move. To step outside this official geography is to risk attack by some monstrous border patrol or (worse) to become monstrous oneself.” (Cohen 12). Monsters do not allow for flexibility in a society and have their own policies for one; creating borders we as humans cannot cross. The borders they create are cultural, social and physical which cannot be questioned or figured out from the individuals in the society or those trying to cross into it. Their society is always considered an “outside” one, which creates an ultimatum overall, preventing humans from leaving their place and going somewhere else. To kill a monster simply opens the space for another, and in the monster genre, we see that monsters are always coming back for more. Grendel was ostracized for being a “beast.” He eventually reached the status of having absolute power, and used it to take out lingering revenge. After listening to the singing and praising of the people in the hall every day, he became aggravated and attacked them continuously. Heaney refers to the fact that Grendel “For twelve winters, seasons of woe, the lord of the Shieldings (Hrothgar, the Danes are also called Shieldings) suffered under his load of sorrow; and so, before long, the news was known over the whole world. Sad lays were sung about the best king, the vicious raids and ravages of Grendel, his long and unrelenting feud, nothing but war;” (147-150) Grendel uses his power to torment the humans, who were not the original instigators of the attacks.Monsters are forced to define their place in the world and leave it with the same pain they entered it, as Grendel is forced to do within Grendel. It is early in his life story that he explains “I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely. I alone exist. I create the whole universe, blink by blink. (Gardner 21-22) Grendel’s first childhood accident scars him for life in a lot of different ways. It’s his first glimpse at the indifference of the universe and the only way to make the experience less psychologically painful is to do something pretty human—make up a philosophy that covers it. This is the first glimpse at the indifference of the universe; and the only way to make the experience less psychologically painful is to do something human—make up a philosophy that covers it. In this case, it is a strong sense of self-determination: other things only exist if and when he perceives them. The basis of Grendel’s philosophy of life is that he sees the world as nothing but chaos and destruction. He’s can’t fight back people are kicking him when he’s down, and he sees that people take advantage and the world causes pain without reason. Everything changes according to the way Grendel sees things and no else, as he explains by stating “I had become something, as if born again. I had hung between possibilities before, between the cold truths I knew and the heart-sucking conjuring tricks of the Shaper; now that was passed: I was Grendel, Ruiner of Mead halls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone.” (Gardner 80). Grendel took the dragon’s advice: to embrace the evil inside you, and help those humans define themselves as the opposite-of-you. After his first raid on Hart, Grendel feels the power of being the center of chaos. He was no longer the target of all the slings of the universe. Grendel feels a kind of euphoria at this new definition of self. After Grendel had just bitten off the head of a Scylding guard, it marked the beginning of his twelve-year war with Hrothgar’s Danes. Having taken this decisive step in creating his own identity is liberating and empowering. It is opaque as to what Grendel has decided. It can be argued that he chose the side of the “truths” that the dragon has passed down to him. In part, Grendel punished humans for their naïve belief in the righteousness of their moral systems—systems that Grendel knows have no foundation in any kind of universal moral law; and all of which are praised by the Shaper. Grendel accepted the role the Shaper has set for him, as the humans’ ultimate nemesis. When Grendel refers to himself as “Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings,” he replicates the Beowulf poet’s tendency to use a cluster of titles for a single character. Grendel once wished for the Shaper’s vision of an ordered, morally coherent world to be true, even if it meant he had to be the villain. It is difficult to tell whether Grendel is taking the intellectual path the dragon has set out for him or the emotional road the Shaper wants him to follow. It can be inferred that Grendel has reached a nominal kind of resolution that he feels so unfulfilled. Furthermore, Grendel feels more alone than before because, with his act of symbolic aggression, he has severed the possibility of ever joining the humans in anything but an antagonistic relationship. Throughout various times his whole expedition of attacking, Grendel redefines how he perceived in the world.


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