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Grendel in Grendel Versus in Beowulf Essay


Comparison of Gardner's Grendel to Beowulf's Grendel

There are many differences between Gardner's Grendel and the Grendel in Beowulf, but all of them are ultimately just a product of perspective. Beowulf uses an omniscient narrator while Grendel is told in first-person from Grendel himself. This difference in perspective creates two remarkably different characters. While the two Grendels do have similarities, I believe this was only done to make the character recognizable and qualify the book as a take-off of Beowulf. Gardner wanted to portray a different Grendel and make the reader feel for him.

Both Grendels are described as being monstrous in appearance, but neither writer gives us a very detailed description. I was surprised that Gardner didn't try to soften his appearance as he softened his personality. Perhaps, this was done to show the reader that things are not always what they seem. I felt like Gardner did this often; he almost shamed the reader for the preconceptions derived from reading Beowulf. He showed us that unlike Beowulf's Grendel, this Grendel was not a sociopath or pure evil, that he had very human qualities. We see him as a child, very confused, sometimes frightened. We hear him say that he would never kill a doe and feels they are prejudiced for fearing him. Gardner paints him as a lost soul who wants to be accepted and does not comprehend his purpose in life. In Beowulf, we just see a creature who cared for no one and would kill without remorse.

When Grendel dies in Beowulf, we feel as though the world has been rid of a huge evil. The writer shows us that he will be going to hell where he belongs. Gardner's version makes us feel sorry for Grendel in the same way we do when we hear of a teen who has had a traumatic childhood and ultimately takes the wrong path in life. Grendel feels a release, a bit of happiness upon his death, is this joy I feel? he asks as he dies (Gardner 173). He comments on those watching his demise and calls them stupid for thinking he is evil. I see this as Gardner referring to us, the reader, as these people. We are the same. We watched as Grendel died in Beowulf and felt happy for this. Now that he has told us the real story we should not only feel bad for Grendel, but a little embarrassed of the way we perceived him.

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