The Philosophical Concept Of Evil And Good In Beowulf
In society today, we like to judge people and put a label on them before even meeting them. In the book Grendel by John Gardner, we can see the good side and bad side from the main character, Grendel. We see in today’s world, how people can be harsh to people for wrong doing. We see this characterization throughout the novel of Grendel. There are many examples to prove that Grendel has pure evil in him, but is he really evil? Considering the fact that Grendel starts a 12 year war with the humans, eats humans, and hates nature. We get to see Grendel’s good side and an evil side throughout the novel.
At the beginning of the novel we find out that Grendel is characterized as a lonely creature or monster, that seems meaningless to everything surrounding him. Grendel is described as smelling like death. At the beginning of the story we start to think that Grendel is evil in the sense that he throws stones at a ram nearby. At this very point in the story it is safe to say that it is obvious he has a bad side. When Grendel was trying to hunt a calf, a bull tried to attack Grendel. Grendel can take no damage to the bull so he finds it funny that the bull is chasing him. At the end of the novel, a goat is wandering around Grendel’s home and he tossed a log at it and tosses stones and rocks at the goat. “He finds his feet the same instant that my second stone hit. It splits his skull, and blood sprays out past his dangling brains, yet he doesn’t fall.” (Gardner, 140). The goat gets back up and keeps going which intends to intimidate Grendel. While torturing the goat for its presence, he gets distracted by the men in the towns of the Scyldings. “I have eaten several priests. They sit on my stomach like duck eggs.” (Gardner, 129). This quote shows his outburst when it comes to man. We see Grendel’s evil side as he has no love for nature or anything in his environment. He harms all the different types of animals. Since Grendel is the main character in the book and the story is told from his point of view, he doesn’t seem as much of a monster.
On the other side of being evil, we see that Grendel sometimes tries to be good. In the story, we was minding his own business in a tree asleep. As this happens the men think he is some sort of tree spirit. Thinking that he is some spirit they tried to feed Grendel pig. As Grendel is trying to yell “pig” they think he’s yelling. The men thought as if Grendel were and angry spirits, and began to attack him. As innocent as grendel was, and doing nothing wrong, he gets swarmed by men. “They took long sticks from the saddles of their horses, bows, and javelins. Darts like hot coals went through my legs and arms.” (Gardner, 27). This may be why Grendel ends up turning on the humans causing commotion with them. Maybe we see Grendel as evil because he can’t trust anybody else, besides his lonely self. Towards the end of the story we see that Beowulf may look like the one causing harm instead of being heroic. We think that Beowulf was the hero because he defeated a “monster”. So that is how we label Beowulf. When Grendel goes into the mead hall, Beowulf is waiting for him. Beowulf grabs ahold of Grendel and Grendel slips in blood, and is then thrown against a wall. Beowulf finishes him off by ripping Grendel’s arm off. Now if that isn’t pure evil and brutality, what is?
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