The Sea In Beowulf

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A constant and pertinent literary metaphor used throughout Beowulf, translated by Charles W Kennedy, is that of the sea. The sea in Beowulf is a single object that not only acts as a place for entertaining battles, but also serves as a plot device that reveals the poem’s contrasting views on religion and death. It also gives validity to Beowulf’s position of power, playing a vital role in his character development, as well as the development of the plot.
It is vital for Beowulf, as the poem’s main protagonist, to have sufficient support and respect from the men he will be fighting with. When the integrity of Beowulf is questioned by a skeptical Unferth, the influential beast that is the sea takes front and center in the argument for the men’s
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The characters treat the ocean as a heavenly passageway, decorating Scyld with heaps of treasure. For men to load treasure with one of their own and send them of into the ocean, it reveals that they must have some love and affinity for not only the man, but the ocean, as they are entrusting the unknown ocean to take care of their treasure and their king. This angelic representation of the ocean is not only challenged multiple times, with mentions of Sea Monsters, such as those slayed by Beowulf, and the cave of Grendel’s mother, but also the Death of the Dragon and the location of Beowulf’s final resting place. When Beowulf and the Dragon are both killed by one another, their bodies are both taken by the soldiers and deliberately put into contradictory places. The Dragon, who is described as a worm, is thrown “over the sea cliff into the ocean / they tumbled the dragon, the deadly worm / Let the sea tide swallow the guarder of gold” (99). The Dragon is a character the soldiers couldn’t despise more, as it had just killed their beloved Beowulf. When it is said they tumble a worm over the cliff to be swallowed up by the sea, they paint a grave, hellish image of where they believe their despised enemy deserves to be. Beowulf is built a grand funeral monument, atop the cliff, as he wished, for all the seamen to see. Beowulf wishes to show these men, in the sea, that they too should aspire to…show more content…
The significance of this lies with the times, as this story would have been told to young children. The contradiction of God and monsters, and the lack of congruence of what is heaven and what is hell, supports an important message of freedom of religion. The contradictions made through the story would influence the progression of the movement, forever changing Europe’s History, adding to the story’s importance.
‪ The poem of Beowulf is one of great adventure, but when evaluated, has subliminal messages that relate to every human being. The story evokes this particularly through water, showing there is a dark and light side to everything, exploring the hypocritical nature of the world all while fitting these messages into the story; developing characters while driving the plot forward. A simple thing such as a body of water is taken from just being an object, to serving as instrument to develop the story, characters and reader, all while becoming a character
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