Analysis Of John Gardner's Grendel: A Demon Of Depravity

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Grendel: A Demon of Depravity

Evil exists naturally within us, it always has and always will. And while it may not be a finite item, that we can touch and see, the beings that possess it are. Arguably the most critical concept in John Gardner's epic, Grendel, evil, as a character trait, is well adopted by the text's main antagonist, Grendel. Not a human but a self-conscious being, Grendel is portrayed as one of the most vile beasts depicted in literature, as he initiates scenes of blood-curdling murder, feeding a ruthless addiction all the while. Despite carrying out such heinous acts, the reader may find himself caring for Grendel, possibly routing for him at points as he battles with the Thames and even his own thoughts.

As English Philosopher John Stuart Mill once said, “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly
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Early on in the storyline, Grendel, only a child at the time, suffers through surges of pain and fear as he finds himself pinched between two trees. He even goes so far to say, “Poor Grendel! Poor Mama!...Poor Grendel will hang here and starve to death.”(Gardner 18). With such human reactions to fear and pain, one can not help but show pity towards Grendel. His reaction, exaggerated, is very similar to that of a young child, perhaps influencing any sympathy the reader has towards him. This is not Grendel's only close call with death though. In the final pages of the book, Grendel is subject to a very painful matter: his arm is ripped from his body while in battle with the thanes. Critically affected by his injury, and facing his inevitable death, the reader is just left wondering, hoping for his survival. How could one not think back to the younger Grendel in his struggle, now seeing him in a similar, but more intense
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