Grendel Character Analysis

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Recently, many reboots, remakes, and spin offs have saturated the film industry, with many people criticizing the practice. However, while some see these as cash grabs with nothing to add, the novel Grendel is a perfect example of a spinoff done correctly. In the original novel Beowulf, Grendel is depicted as a savage beast with no complexity. John Gardner, however, saw an opportunity to create a brilliant commentary of 1970’s society. Gardner decided to paint Gendel not as evil, but as a tragic misunderstood figure. In his self titled novel, Grendel is not evil, as from only one perspective is he viewed as evil in the book, and if fate determines all action there is no good or evil. Grendel is not evil, as only the town views him as evil.…show more content…
The dragon and the human settlement of Hrothgar give their views on Grendel's morality. The dragon is a figure of immense age, sounding like an “old old man” (Gardner 58). The dragon does not view Grendel, or anything, as evil. The dragon is depicted as a Nihilist. Nihilism is the philosophy that nothing matters, so one has to create their own meaning in life. The dragon says,“That's the gist of it ... everything will have come and gone” (Gardner 62). The dragon has found his meaning, to sit on a pile of gold, and advises Grendel to “seek out gold and sit on it” (Gardner 74). Viewing the novel from the dragons perspective paints Grendel in a sympathetic light. He doesn't terrorize the town because he is inherently a bad creature, but because it is his meaning in life. To the dragon, Grendel is to humanity “as inseparable as…show more content…
A major theme throughout both Beowulf and Grendel is Fate. In Beowulf it is Beowulf’s fate to go on his quest, therefore he does. In Grendel, fate also plays a part. Since the dragon can see multiple time periods, referring to Grendel as a “Dark age creature” (Gardner 60), and since he knows that both he and Grendel will one day die, the future is already set in stone. While the dragon denies fate exists, Grendel does what was prophesied giving merit to the concept of fate. Therefore, fate will take its course no matter what Grendel or any other character does. Henceforth, there are no good or evil actions that a singular character can take. They have no free will in what they do, so nobody can be good or evil since nobody has a choice in their evil actions. Even if the dragon is correct and there is no such thing as fate, any actions taken by Grendel are due to circumstances. Grendel never initiated any conflict with humans, they attacked him first. Grendel was scared and confused hiding in a tree, when the humans attacked him. Gardner writes “The king snatched an axe from the man beside him and, without any warning, he hurled it at me” (Gardner 27) Grendel tried to open a line of communication when he finds a corpse, crying “Mercy! Peace!” (Gardner 51) attempting to become the friend of the town. Instead of accepting his help, they attack Grendel, even as he screams “Friend! Friend!” (Gardner 52). Grendel never wanted to

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