In the novel Grendel by John Gardner, Grendel is the main character in the story. He is seen as a murderous monster who has antagonized the Danes for 12 years. Grendel takes the role of the outcast in the human's world and becomes a menace to King Hrothgar and his men. In Grendel's perspective, he faces rejection from every corner. Imagery, allusions, and nihilism, are used in Grendel to highlight Grendel's interactions with the humans, which truly establishes the central theme that ignorance brings out the brute within.
His mother is no longer able to mentally function as she never interacts with Grendel, and the humans he interacts with fear him, so he gets no real interaction from anyone. Consequently, Grendel describes himself as only existing and everything else is just imagination. Isolation takes a toll on the mentally of most people, so it isn’t illogical to assume that Grendel is breaking down from his seclusion. He is arguing with himself over his own thoughts as shown on page 3 of the novel: “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). The reader gets insight on Grendel’s perceptions of himself. He is in conflict with the definition of existence. Grendel strongly believes that he has always been permanently an outsider; Grendel is unnatural, he is a killer since he has slaughtered numerous humans, and a creature that needs not exist at all. His mother’s muteness plays a major role as it was his fate to be isolated. Grendel, as the monster, must never feel affection since he is not a human, or “loving creature.” In the novel, Grendel visualizes moments where he doesn’t even know who
John Gardner gave Grendel emotions that the reader was able to see and hear through his own words. Grendel told tales of his childhood causing the reader to become invested in Grendel’s past giving the feeling of a connection. As in the way he describes instances of his imaginative play, “I use to play games when I was young…explored our far-flung underground world in an endless wargame of leaps onto nothing…quick whispered plottings with invisible friends” (Gardner 15). Consequently, this information gives the feeling of sympathy for Grendel, for his lonely childhood and circumstance. Gardner continues to play on the sympathies of the reader after Grendel’s first interaction with the Danes. As he is back in his cave he says to his mother, “the world is all a pointless
Complete isolation is not the only contributing factor to Grendel’s savage raids and aggressive behavior. The label and detestation that he receives from the humans themselves prove this. Ironically, the society who dubbed Grendel “evil” is the same society that tormented him to the point of consuming humans. The reason that Grendel is even debated to be evil is because of the humans that showed him hatred and brutality. At their first meeting, Grendel narrates, “Darts like hot coals went through my legs and arms and I howled more loudly still,” (Gardner 27). From the start, humans show Grendel nothing but cruelty and blind hatred in the form of darts and yelling, and all because they cannot communicate with him, and they are frightened. Grendel experiences rejection from a species he seems to be most connected to, and he is shown the same meaningless violence
In the novel Grendel by John Gardner, Grendel’s largest internal conflict is whether or not he can overcome his predestined status of monster. Throughout the course of the story Grendel is influenced by both sides, human and beast, through the dragon and the Shaper. Although Grendel initially wants to align himself with the humans, no matter how he tries to communicate with them as an equal they will not accept his company, causing him to become lonely and angry. Grendel’s anger turns to violence, which makes the humans turn further against him and, as he is alienated from any sense of humanity he ever had, he eventually discovers that he has no choice and must fulfill his role as the enemy to humans.
Grendel begins attacking the humans, “I eat and laugh until I can barely walk, my chest-hair matted with dribbled blood...my belly rumbles, sick on their sour meat” (Gardner 12). Grendel went from crying for his mother when his foot got stuck in a branch to killing and eating dozens of people. Seeing the events that lead up to this how Grendel did helps us further see the transformation he is making. It’s the isolation from the humans that transforms Grendel, “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” (Gardner 54). Grendel recognizes that it is the isolation that has turned him into what he is. He has seen how the humans have rejected him and tried to kill him, the first person viewpoint allows us to share this experience with
In the novel Grendel by John Gardner, written in 1971, there are numerous concepts of the human nature portrayed and discussed. With the progression of the novel, the humans become develop to be described as increasingly careless, vicious and futile. Starting with Grendel 's first encounter with the humans to the death of the protagonist, Gardner illustrates an unusual view of the humans and their interactions with one another. Grendel begins as a creature similar to the people he observes, with many shared characteristics and thoughts, even though not all of the their actions are understood. His lasting wish is to be accepted into their society, as they accompany each other and he suffers of loneliness. During the next years, Grendel begins
Grendel, due to his ancestry, lives in exile, “…haunting the marches, marauding round the heath / and the desolate fens” (Heaney 103-104). He lives a life in isolation, away from the presence of human civilization, which in turn brings an impact as to how he acts and feels. He brings chaos and grief to the people of Danes for years simply because his exile formed him into a hateful being. “…for who could be blind / to the evidence of his eyes, the obviousness / of the hall-watcher’s hate?” (140-142). Grendel reacts with violence when he becomes enraged at the constant celebrating of the Danes, then sneaking into Heorot at night to murder the men in their sleep. His exile causes him to know no other way to handle situations outside of massacres, fear, and vengeance. His violent nature and actions that stems from his isolation ultimately creates his monstrous depiction from which the humans see him as remorseless and evil. These three ideas induce the fact that Grendel’s exile leads to his malevolent nature and in turn, a
Grendel, a descendant of Cain, exemplifies a horrible image of an outcast or loner from Herot society. He is banished to the swamplands, which is described as “in a hell not hell but earth”. Grendel longs for the acceptance of mankind; he is jealous of the society that he cannot be a
Life is full of decisions, but they are subconsciously influenced by society. This influence has created an unhealthy relationship between social classes. How people choose to act is in complete correlation to society’s set expectation for a certain class. These actions then become reflections of people’s moral values. In Tony McAdam’s criticism of The Great Gatsby, Ethics in Gatsby, he points out the corruption of characters morals due to society’s influence and the impact that has on decision making. Society’s unhealthy division between class influences character’s decisions because society changes character’s morals.
At the beginning of the story, Grendel is a cynical character full of sarcastic and inappropriate remarks, such as when he says “...tickling his gross, lopsided balls...” (Gardner 6). Despite, his cynicism, he actually gives off a very playful and childish vibe. Much like a child that ask a lot of question, his mind runs wild, asking questions about and to the “sky” in a comical manner. Then, as the story proceeds, Grendel is faced with several characters that changes his outlook and changes the overall tone of the story. The first person he meets that fundamentally changes him is Hrothgar. As he observes him from afar, he “suddenly knew (he) was dealing with no dull mechanical bull but thinking creatures, pattern makers, the most dangerous things (he’d) ever met” (Gardner 26).
This purpose has dragged Grendel down an abyss of violence and brutality where the only spark of life was given by the act of eating the victims of a massacre until the threshold of tolerance was so high that Grendel found himself even more alone. This feeling of loneliness is broken by Beowulf’s arrival and eventually by Grendel’s death that ease the pain of trying to understand the functioning of the world and the universe, something that is designed by nature to overwhelm us when we try to analyse it and leave us amazed or depressed. As the philosopher Alan Watts says “black implies white, self implies other, life implies death — or shall I say, death implies life — you can conceive yourself”, Grendel has conceived himself through the consequences of its actions and not by the action
In John Gardner’s novel Grendel the tale is portrayed from Grendel’s point of view, a villain who wreaks havoc on Hrothgar’s lands and leaves his citizens in fear. This affects the way we construe the theme of isolation in the novel which makes Grendel appear increasingly more innocent than the readers expect, and he is also victimized by the citizens, which causes him to be a recluse in society.
Nothing could break free from the menial tasks of life, nothing shared that spark of intelligence that he alone seemed to have, “I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against” (Gardner 22). This would soon change, but Gardner uses this speech to clearly elucidate a moment of recognition in Grendel, realizing that the physical world which he inhabits has no control over what he is to become. The only way to find a place in the natural world requires the menial repetition, of one key instinct, survive. Grendel strives to break from this from this “Mechanical” world which he inhabits and desires for the establishment of a singular ideology that he can follow and accept. Grendel's inability to associate himself with one distinct group; soon to be feared by the humans and unable to communicate with his mother, leaves him vulnerable for the rash humans who quickly turn to violence to imprint on Grendel. The Captain follows suit, his life of secrecy, deception, and his facade of truth makes it so that the narrator can never get too close to anyone, even his best friends. The Narrator is often berated by
Grendel begins his life as an existentialist, as he is confused by the world that surrounds him. He uses