Evil In Beowulf

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W.P. Kerr is not wholly wrong in his assessment of Beowulf. He asserts the poem is simple and lacking in substance, but while he is correct concerning certain aspects, Beowulf is more complicated than he makes it out to be. The story is indeed minimalistic but Kerr misses the larger picture. The straightforwardness of the plot in Beowulf emphasizes the more important symbols represented by the monsters and Beowulf himself, and makes them the focus and purpose of the piece. Beowulf, excluding the sporadic historical anecdotes, is extremely basic in terms of its plot. Beowulf fights three monsters: a contemptible Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon that ultimately defeats him. Besides this, there is not much substance in the storyline.…show more content…
Grendel is left in the gloom, a terrible nightmare of macabre strength and rage with no clear depiction. However, Grendel’s descriptions often contain a reference to nature, which informs how his character should be viewed on a deeper level. Described as coming “from the moor under the mist-hills” and referred to only in vague terms such as “foul ravager”, “the foe”, and “the monster”, Grendel is vague, demonic, and elemental (14). Where Beowulf is cordial and follows etiquette to the letter, Grendel completely disregards societal norms and is wholly separate of any society. With this in mind Grendel represents nature and chaos as opposed to what Beowulf embodies, order and the civilized side of…show more content…
While Kerr would insist that this attention is only a result of the austerity of the plot as a whole, the bare-bones narrative allows the monsters and Beowulf to be prominent and serve as the true purpose of the piece. The purpose of the poem is not to be a historical narrative, or even an epic poem. The piece’s powerful symbolism makes it an important work of art and poetry in its own right. Viewed in this light, the deeper course of Beowulf can be discerned. Beowulf, the hero who stands for civilization and order sets out to fight a monster that symbolizes nature and its cruelty to men. He defeats Grendel, only to face another equally elemental monster, Grendel’s mother. Having served his purpose, he returns to native Geatland and lives out the rest of his days as the archetype of a good king. However, as it does for all men, death comes in the end. As “gore welled out in waves” from a wound on his neck, Beowulf fought his ultimate fate, and eventually succumbed to the mortality which the dragon represents

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