Grendel Essay Nihilism

A Comparison of Nihilistic and Christian Archetypes in Beowulf and John Gardner's Grendel

2146 Words9 Pages

Grendel, Beowulf and the Relationship Between Nihilistic and Christian Archetypes

The Wisdom god, Woden, went out to the king of trolls…and demanded to know how order might triumph over chaos.
“Give me your left eye,” said the king of trolls, “and I’ll tell you.”
Without hesitation, Woden gave up his left eye.
“Now tell me.”
The troll said, “The secret is, Watch with both eyes!”
Woden’s left eye was the last sure hope of gods and men in their kingdom of light surrounded by darkness. All we have left is Thor’s hammer, which represents not brute force but art, or, counting both hammerheads, art and criticism…

The philosophies expressed in the Beowulf epic complement the exploration of existentialism throughout the modern work,…show more content…

Beowulf (G), the hero, is able to identify Grendel (G)’s pattern and destroy him. Since mankind could only defeat Grendel (G) by creating a hero more powerful than him, the hero represents a kind of process that ultimately creates a greater monster. Therefore, using these archetypes, Gardner and the Beowulf poet use the same story to illuminate the difference between ancient and modern society; Beowulf (AS) is the proper representative of the Anglo-Saxon society, and Grendel (G) is the proper representative of the modern world.

Grendel’s role remains the same in both books; the role of a monster that embodies humanity’s fears, a creature that human society creates. Grendel (AS) exists as a mindless perversion of nature. He represents one branch of the human society created by God that is distorted by evil. However Grendel (G) exists as just another aspect of nature, outside of human society; until he is transformed by his contact with mankind, the concept of “monster” does not apply to Grendel (G.) “In viewing the monstrous body as a metaphor for the cultural body…beasts, demons, freaks, and fiends are symbolic expressions of cultural unease that pervades a society and shapes its collective behavior.” (Cohen). This is especially true of Grendel (G), whose attempts to interact with

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Existentialism In Grendel Essay

1616 Words7 Pages

Existentialism In Grendel The debate between existentialism and the rest of the world is a fierce, albeit recent one. Before the "dawn of science" and the Age Of Reason, it was universally accepted that there were such things as gods, right and wrong, and heroism. However, with the developing interest in science and the mechanization of the universe near the end of the Renaissance, the need for a God was essentially removed, and humankind was left to reconsider the origin of meaning. John Gardner’s intelligently written Grendel is a commentary on the merits and flaws of both types of worldview: the existentialist "meaning-free" universe, and the heroic universe, where every action is imbued with purpose and power. Indeed, the…show more content…

Waa!”) as well as his urgent need to define things and find a meaning for himself.

Through his eyes are shown the futility of a romantic outlook and the destruction of a dream. "If the Shaper's vision of goodness and peace is a part of himself, not idle rhymes, then no one understands him at all," thinks Grendel, recognizing the divergence between reality and the heroic ideal. His defeat of Unferth marks the symbolic destruction of heroism, at least in his head; "So much for heroism," he concludes. Even Grendel's existence would seem to disprove the notions of the Shaper, who preaches the virtues of honor and courage. If the world is based on right and wrong, how can Grendel continue to survive? How can he kill senselessly every night, bring so much grief and torment to humans, and yet nothing come of it? "It's all the same in the end, matter or motion, simple or complex," whether he kills or not. In the beginning, Grendel decides that life must be devoid of meaning. Nihilism is, of curse, a rather depressing, if liberating, way to go through life, but such would seem to be the conclusion of the book. In order to understand what Gardner intends by this, one must look at the process through which Grendel turns nihilist. Psychologically, Grendel is an interesting character. He spends his entire life practicing the denial of truth. His first interaction with humans, conscious, thinking beings like himself, forces him to turn to

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