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The Hero and the Theme
Transcript of The Hero and the Theme
Catherine M. Hills summarizes Beowulf’s theme and literary critiques with comments of others and herself. Hills provides different opinions of Beowulf and its meaning through quotes and the analysis of other authors.
The beginning of the passage discusses Beowulf as a person and how the audience does not learn about him as a person, besides his good deeds and extraordinary strength, because the poem lacks a narrative from Beowulf himself.
John Niles states that Beowulf “outdistances us” and becomes part of the poems plot, therefore readers can’t relate with him. The Poem makes readers view Beowulf entirely from the outside, and learn about his character by what he says and the way that he acts, rather than his thoughts. Beowulf “addresses audiences within the poem, not us”, Beowulf refrains from speaking to just one listener until the end of the story (276). Beowulf attracts the audience by preforming public deeds naturally. John Leyerle hypothesizes that Beowulf is constantly growing throughout the poem. Although Beowulf struggles with the excessive need for fame, that need is attributed to the low self-esteem of his youth and homeland.
The hero and the theme
In addition, Beowulf’s critical emphasis centers on the songs and poem he hears when traveling through Heorot. The songs and poem of the Finnsburg story effect the Hero, but he interprets them differently than his comrades. Hrothgar’s “sermon” reminds Beowulf of his mortality and the audience of his “empathy for the suffering” (277). Beowulf realizes that the Finnsburg’s story/song apply to the diplomatic marriage of Freawaru.
Additionally, when Beowulf returns home, he retells his tragic stories in Heorot in a comical manner, which show the audience the harsh side of his humor. Literary critics debate whether the theme of Beowulf is the “threat to human order posed by monsters” or Beowulf’s “meaning rather than his being”. Others battled over whether Beowulf is a Christian figure or if the poem judges him by the Christian beliefs. However, they classified it as a neo-Aristotelian tragedy in which “a hero’s flaw could be identified as sin, greed, or pride” (279).
The Culture and Theme behind Beowulf
Beowulf, like other Anglo-Saxon poems, expresses the values of a "shame culture." The interpretation of such values, have separated the actors, narrator and audience. Its cultural interpretation has the audience, actors, and narrator belong to a world that rewards right with honor and punishes wrong with shame. Wiglaf's speech to Beowulf's retainers who valued their lives above moral conduct supports this ideology.
Culture and Theme behind Beowulf
Fred C. Robinson assumes that after the Conversion period that the poem reflects that the "shame culture replaced that of a guilt culture." He uses Beowulf's dark thoughts of fighting the dragon was caused because of guilt and fear. That even though that occurs, the hero must still try to appear heroic in a sense.
By: Kelsey Hodges, Cynthia Teran, and Joel Holmes
The Hero and the Theme
Beowulf has suggested themes of "Bear's Son" folktale as well as the "combat myth" type where the hero fights successively against three nonhuman and supernatural enemies , forces of elemental or archetypal disorder. Grendel, in
Grendel plays the nonhuman form that is clearly associated with force of evil in Christianity, while the dragon plays the role of the supernatural enemy.
first great battle in which the narrator punctuates Grendel's progress with comments contrasting the monster's intentions to feast while having God's power to thwart him, with Beowulf's battle mood, and with the tough luck and tough warrior waiting for him there. His first great battle circulates the hero being pitted againsta the monster whose a descendant from Cain( brother who kills his brother out of jealousy and later gets punished by God).
In his youth, Beowulf had asserted that "for the dead warrior a living fame is best." Beowulf was seen as the hero at all times but ironically he was in fear that he had caused wrong but was blinded by the fame and popularity the "heroic" act would bring.
In the Anglo-Saxon culture, the Conversion from Paganist to Christianity created such confusions in poems for the narrator, audience and actors. Poems were mixed with Christian and Pagan ideals for the hero and evil.
A commonly recurring theme in Beowulf is the hero’s humanity for others. The sorrow Beowulf shows for the death of Hygelac shows a side of Beowulf that seems more humanized than super natural. Beowulf’s father, uncle, and Grandfather are frequently spoken of and he greatly admires them. Beowulf’s admiration of his father was so great that anything his father did was heavily exaggerated. He desires to live up to his father’s legacy and is willing to do anything to bring pride to him.
Another recurring theme is fame. Fame and the pursuit of fame became moral ideals throughout the story and were seen as the ethical answer to evil. Fame was won by deeds of courage and good kingship and carried on by storytelling. Beowulf’s storytelling and bragging can be viewed as him being ethical and fighting evil, which adds to the idea that Beowulf’s character is a representation of Jesus Christ.