Grendel's Solipsism Analysis

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The word “evil,” according to Merriam-Webster, means “morally bad.” With such a vague definition, how can one discern the truth behind what is good and what is evil? John Gardner’s novel Grendel provides multiple philosophical outlooks demystifying the epic poem Beowulf’s antagonist. Grendel is a monster, however Gardner clearly asserts through multiple philosophies that not all monsters are inherently evil. Grendel proves not to be evil due to his belief in solipsism. Solipsism is manifested in Grendel’s recurring and crippling loneliness, his understanding of solipsism affecting others, and Gardner’s achievement in eliciting sympathy for Grendel.

The main pillar of solipsism is that one’s consciousness is all that can be real. Grendel understands this, and as readers gain knowledge of Grendel’s inner turmoils, one can plainly see that Grendel only believes in his own
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When Grendel is faced by the protective bull in chapter 2, he states “[the bull] fought by instinct.” (Gardner 21) Grendel recognizes that bull is predisposed to act specifically as he does; to protect the young. The bull is made to do this by nature, and is unable to understand others’ mental states, such as Grendel’s as he is stuck in the tree and is unable to harm the calf. Similarly, Grendel is able to recognize solipsism in man. As the men who stumble upon the trapped Grendel contemplate the possibility of him being a fungus or spirit, Grendel understands that the men are unable to know who he is. A component of solipsism is that when one believes in their existence, they are believing in their own experiences. Therefore, because the men had never experienced a being such as Grendel, they could not possibly understand him. Grendel knew this, and did not criticise the mental abilities of man as he does later in the novel, because he knows that they could not possibly know who he
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