Contrasting points of view in Grendeland Beowulf significantly alter the readers perception of religion, good andevil, and the character Grendel.
John Gardners book, Grendel, is written infirst person. The book translated by Burton Raffel, Beowulf, is written in thirdperson. Good and evil is one of the main conflicts in the poem Beowulf. Howis Grendel affected by the concepts of good and evil? Grendel is an alienatedindividual who just wants to be a part of something. His desire to fit in causeshim to do evil things. Grendel is fascinated by the Shapers poetry. He oftenreturns to the mead hall to listen to it. One night while he is listening, he hearsthe story of Cain and Abel, including the Danes explanation of Grendel.
Hisreaction to this leads to one of his most dramatic emotional reactions: Ibelieved him. Such was the power of the Shapers harp! Stood wriggling myface, letting tears down my nose, grinding my fists into my elbow the corpse ofthe proof that both of us ere cursed, or neither, that the brothers had neverlived, nor the god who judged them. Waaa! I bawled. Oh what aconversion(Gardner 51)! Grendel then cries for mercy from the Danes. Hewants their forgiveness as well as unification with them, which represents thegood in him. The Danes reject him by confusing his outburst of sorrow as anattack. After visiting with a dragon who tells Grendel a fictional version of theShapers tale, Grendel continues to believe the Shapers story.
He searchesfor the goodness in human beings, which was mentioned in the story. He eatspeople only because it provides a place for him in society, even if it is anegative position (The Two Faces of Grendel, 2). Good and evil is one of themain conflicts in the poem Beowulf, and ultimately both wipe each other out.Good, is portrayed by God, and evil seems to be what fate has in store for thehero.
Beowulf occasionally talks to God and asks God to give him strengthbefore the battle and to give him the valor he needs to overcome his enemy.Evil seems to always get the bad side of things since it always gets conqueredby Gods good side. Even though this is true, evil lives the high life for a longtime. Grendel, Beowulfs first opponent, killed thousands and thousands ofmen before he met his match. Evil comes from the monsters. They attack thegood side by killing innocent men because they are hungry or just want to defythe laws. Good fights back when the evil creations are killed and all is back tonormal.
Beowulf is truly good because he helps people when they need it themost and hopes that God is with him even though he doesnt have to doanything to help the people who have an evil creature killing their villagespopulation every night. In Grendel, the main belief is that of existentialism,however, there are also numerous references to Cain throughout the entirebook. The basis for his version of existentialism is the following excerpt fromthe book itself: I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaosof casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. Iunderstood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, ismerely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindlyas blindly as all thatis not myself pushes back.
I create the whole universe, blink by blink.Anugly god pitifully dying in a tree (Gardner 22)! One can explain this view ofexistentialism by considering some simple concepts of existentialism.Existentialists believe that man is forlorn and totally responsible for his acts,and that his choices are important because existence precedes essence.Furthermore, the references to Cain, which represented chaos and thepresence of evil, can be found throughout the book. For example, after Cainkilled his brother, he drinks his blood.
This is typically something that Grendeldoes after he kills his victims. Additionally, both Cain and Grendel are viewedas outcasts of society who have to roam in the shadows. They are outsidelooking inside. They are outside threats to the order of society as shown byGrendel with the Danes (Similarities between Grendel and Cain, 1). Thereligious references to Cain, as well as the belief in existentialism are importantaspects in Grendel. In Beowulf, the main belief is that of wyrd, or fate, andsources say that Beowulf is a pagan poem adapted to fit ideals of Christianity.The belief in wyrd is one of the most pervasive pagan elements.
TheAnglo-Saxons believed strongly that their lives were predestined and thatpowerful supernatural forces acted upon them. The inevitability of this fate isshown many times throughout the poem. When Beowulf prepares to fightGrendel, he abandons his armor and sword saying, Fate ever goes as itmust. Additionally, although there are Christian overtones, the paganisticpoint of views are expressed anytime they discuss fate and destiny. Forexample, Beowulf makes a remark to Wiglaf that fate has swept their raceaway.
But right above that, he tells Wiglaf, I thank our Father in Heaven,Ruler of the Earth-For all of this, that His grace has given me(Gardner109). The epic poem Beowulf contains definite references to Christianity, butit is also full of Pagan symbols such as that of fate. The character Grendel isviewed in a different light in the book Grendel. Grendel is pitiful in Grendel,however, Gardner uses this pity to arouse sympathy for Grendel by giving himhuman traits and emotions and by using first person. This novel is actuallynarrated by Grendel, which offers understanding of the beasts innermostfeelings, as well as evoking sympathy from the reader. In Grendel, the antiherohas human traits: he walks on two legs and speaks a language similar to theDanes.
He also has strong emotions of fear, anger, and sorrow as well asintellect. One may compare Grendel to Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Bothcharacters have a sense of alienation and just want to fit in. The point of viewof the book Grendel allows the reader to see another side of Grendel. InBeowulf, Grendel is viewed as the antagonist and the evil villain. Grendel isboth feared and hated in Beowulf.
Upon reading Beowulf, the readerdiscovers Grendel as seen through the eyes of his terrified victims. KingHrothgar, leader of the Danes, fears his visits: The renowned ruler, the princeof long famous, sat empty of joy; strong in might, he suffered, sorrowed for hismen when they saw the track of the hateful monster, the evil spirit. Hrothgarwould dread the fatal nights when Grendel would dine on human flesh. Theruler understands that Grendel attacks his men out of spite and jealousy (TheTwo Faces of Grendel, 1).
In reading Grendel and Beowulf, one can findmany similarities in the way the events occur in the books, however becauseof contrasting points of view, the reader gets insight on the entire picture fromtwo different sides. This allows the reader to better understand each book andits contents, such as their beliefs and the concept of good and evil, andacknowledge the ways the character Grendel can be described. Book Reports