Beowulf Figurative Language Essay

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Though Grendel is often perceived as a simple enemy for our titular hero to vanquish, many details concerning him are often ignored. Indeed, Heaney’s translation makes a number of somewhat oblique suggestions to Grendel’s more sympathetic nature. Much of the criticism aimed at Beowulf has centred around its somewhat simplistic creatures, yet such claims often ignore the more complex aspects of Grendel’s depiction. In the given extract, Heaney employs a number of different devices to suggest Grendel’s misunderstood nature. Alluding to the story of Heremod, is an example. The preservation of key formal features of Old English poetry to suggest Grendel’s potentially sympathetic nature, is another. Therefore, the most interesting aspect of this…show more content…
One of the main ways in which this is achieved is the paralleling of Grendel and Heremod’s lives, in that Grendel represents the end result of melancholic impulses, especially in relation to those who bear significant physical or social power. Grendel is described as ‘Spurned and joyless’, in the same way as ‘his life had lost happiness’ (1722) is attributed to Heremod. Similarly, the turn ‘spurned’ is similar to the telling expression linked to Heremod: ‘a pariah king’ (1714). Heaney, in his translation, ensures that both Grendel and Heremod are depicted in a similar manner, and thus the intrinsic nature of both characters is suggested. Through this link Grendel can be seen as emblematic of the final result of melancholia. Freud, describing melancholia, stated: ‘in mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself’. Grendel, being ‘spurned’ and ‘joyless’ represents this. Therefore, through Heaney’s allusion to the story of Heremod, and thus the link to melancholia, Grendel takes on a somewhat more sympathetic

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