Point Of View In Grendel And Beowulf


Word Count: 1144

Contrasting points of view in Grendel
and Beowulf significantly alter the reader’s perception of religion, good and
evil, and the character Grendel. John Gardner’s book, Grendel, is written in
first person. The book translated by Burton Raffel, Beowulf, is written in third
person. Good and evil is one of the main conflicts in the poem Beowulf. How
is Grendel affected by the concepts of good and evil? Grendel is an alienated
individual who just wants to be a part of something. His desire to fit in causes
him to do evil things. Grendel is fascinated by the Shaper’s poetry. He often
returns to the mead hall to listen to it. One night while he is listening, he hears
the story of Cain and Abel, including the Danes explanation of Grendel. His
reaction to this leads to one of his most dramatic emotional reactions: “I
believed him. Such was the power of the Shaper’s harp! Stood wriggling my
face, letting tears down my nose, grinding my fists into my elbow the corpse of
the proof that both of us ere cursed, or neither, that the brothers had never
lived, nor the god who judged them. ‘Waaa!’ I bawled. ‘Oh what a
conversion’”(Gardner 51)! Grendel then cries for mercy from the Danes. He
wants their forgiveness as well as unification with them, which represents the
good in him. The Danes reject him by confusing his outburst of sorrow as an
attack. After visiting with a dragon who tells Grendel a fictional version of the
Shaper’s tale, Grendel continues to believe the Shaper’s story. He searches
for the goodness in human beings, which was mentioned in the story. He eats
people only because it provides a place for him in society, even if it is a
negative position (The Two Faces of Grendel, 2). Good and evil is one of the
main conflicts in the poem Beowulf, and ultimately both wipe each other out.
Good, is portrayed by God, and evil seems to be what fate has in store for the
hero. Beowulf occasionally talks to God and asks God to give him strength
before the battle and to give him the valor he needs to overcome his enemy.
Evil seems to always get the bad side of things since it always gets conquered
by God’s good side. Even though this is true, evil lives the high life for a long
time. Grendel, Beowulf’s first opponent, killed thousands and thousands of
men before he met his match. Evil comes from the monsters. They attack the
good side by killing innocent men because they are hungry or just want to defy
the laws. Good fights back when the evil creations are killed and all is back to
normal. Beowulf is truly good because he helps people when they need it the
most and hopes that God is with him even though he doesn’t have to do
anything to help the people who have an evil creature killing their village’s
population every night. In Grendel, the main belief is that of existentialism,
however, there are also numerous references to Cain throughout the entire
book. The basis for his version of existentialism is the following excerpt from
the book itself: I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos
of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I
understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is
merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly—as blindly as all that
is not myself pushes back. I create the whole universe, blink by blink.—An
ugly god pitifully dying in a tree (Gardner 22)! One can explain this view of
existentialism by considering some simple concepts of existentialism.
Existentialists believe that man is forlorn and totally responsible for his acts,
and that his choices are important because existence precedes essence.
Furthermore, the references to Cain, which represented chaos and the
presence of evil, can be found throughout the book. For example, after Cain
killed his brother, he drinks his blood. This is typically something that Grendel
does after he kills his victims. Additionally, both Cain and Grendel are viewed
as outcasts of society who have to roam in the shadows. They are outside
looking inside. They are outside threats to the order of society as shown by
Grendel with the Danes (Similarities between Grendel and Cain, 1). The
religious references to Cain, as well as the belief in existentialism are important
aspects in Grendel. In Beowulf, the main belief is that of wyrd, or fate, and
sources