Character Motivation In Beowulf

2093 Words9 Pages
Rachna Shah
5th Hour
All That Shines is Not Gold: An Analysis of Character Motivation in Beowulf
At first glance, gold seems to symbolize greed. Yet in Beowulf, treasure is presented in a different light. Rather than unilaterally being an all-encompassing symbol of sin, treasure is separated by the Beowulf-poet based off its user’s purposes: to share or to hoard. For what purpose does the Beowulf-poet consistently juxtapose distributed and unused treasure? To what extent are either or both types of treasure consistent with Christian ideals? These questions guide Joseph Marshall’s paper, “Goldgyfan or Goldwlance: A Christian Apology for Beowulf and Treasure”. Therein, Marshall argues that the poet’s clear distinction between distributed and unused treasure is symbolic of the poem’s message. Marshall uses a plethora of contextualized Christian sources to assert that the Beowulf-poet’s differentiation
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These so-called guardians have a burden and responsibility. Because they keep their gold, rather than dispensing it, they become miserable. For instance, the Last Survivor buries the treasure of his deceased civilization’s because it has lost its purpose, specifically useless because it is simply gold. Similarly, the Geats dispose of the dragon’s treasure by carelessly “throwing it [onto Beowulf’s] pyre” (22) and by burying it in his barrow. The Geats unbury the treasure only to bury it again ten days later, a cycle of gift-exchange that occurs too quickly. This foreshadows their doom, as the Geats seem to be cycling out of control. Moreover, after the Geats have buried the treasure, the Beowulf-poet states that the gold still “[is] as useless to men now as it ever was” (Beowulf 3168). The jarring present tense in this line underscores the futility of burying this treasure, establishing the Geats as useless servants for burying their Lord’s
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