Theme Of Nihilism In Grendel

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Nihilism in Grendel Although John Gardner’s novel Grendel simply is a recount of Beowulf’s antagonistic monster going about his life and interacting with different people and creatures, it explores many profound themes such as nihilism. As the story progresses, Grendel has a series of realizations about and encounters with nihilism that greatly shape his way of thinking and view of the world. He progresses from a simple, easily satisfied creature, to a cynical and pessimistic monster. The effect of nihilism is evident as the protagonist interacts with different characters in the book. The first instance where the reader can spot Grendel registering the ideas of nihilism and how he feels about them, is when he comes across “The Shaper;” a man who sings tales about historical battles and events, and therefore shapes them and how they are perceived by the rest. Grendel listens, and “[he] believed him. Such was the power of the Shaper’s harp!” However, as he further inspects what is going on, he has a “sudden awareness of [his] foolishness.” Grendel is able to see that…show more content…
After the Shaper, Grendel wanders into a cave inhabited by a dragon. This beast has many things to advice Grendel, and upon hearing what Grendel had heard from the Shaper, he says, “What god? Where?” Clearly, the Dragon is a nihilist, even in the way he lives in a cave amongst splendid treasures and does not allow others to even touch. He presents the idea that, Grendel should seek power and be as victorious as he can, and not allow others to repress his greatness and will. Grendel later mentions feeling that “everything had changed… [and] no weapon could cut [him].” The nihilistic idea of “power to will” has conspicuously affected Grendel, and sparked a feeling of superiority and ability in him that he did not previously have. However, this is in a dark, malicious way, as his intentions are to harm the humans he so
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