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Grendel: Chapter 12 Philosophy
Transcript of Grendel: Chapter 12 Philosophy
Chapter 12: A Summary
Chapter 12 opens with Grendel breaking into Hrothgar's meadhall for the final time.
He murders a number of Beowulf's men, who are sleeping at the time of his arrival.
However, Grendel soon runs into Beowulf himself, and proceeds to battle with him.
This fight leaves Grendel reeling and severely injured, and Grendel stumbles back to his lair.
The chapter ends with Grendel''s life slowly leaving him, also marking the end of the novel. One can infer that Grendel then dies shortly after this encounter.
Empiricism establishes experience through touch, sight, smell, sound, and hearing as a base for how people gain knowledge.
In the chapter, Grendel's experiences upon entering the castle are described in acute and extensive detail. John Gardner uses exquisite imagery to illustrate how Grendel feels and acts.
Zodiac Connection: Pisces
The sign associated with Chapter 12 is Pisces, a star sign usually associated with an image of one or more fish. Here are several quotes from the novel that make reference to the sea or water:
The main philosophy associated with chapter 12 of Grendel is the concept of empiricism, which proposes that the root of all knowledge is sense experience.
The Empiricism Thesis: We have no knowledge in S or the concepts we use in S other than sense experience.
"Locke, John (1632 - 1704)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale 1998. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 October 2013.
Gardner, John. Grendel. New York. Vintage Books. 1989.
Markie, Peter, Markie. "Rationalism vs. Empiricism." Standford University. Standford University, 19 Aug. 2004. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.
"Sydenham, Thomas (1624-1689)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Academic One File. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.
Transmogrify (vb.) - To transform in a surprising or magical manner.
Thane (n.) - A member of any several aristocratic classes of men ranking between earls and ordinary freemen, granted lands by the king or lords for military service.
Sleet (n.) - Precipitation in the form of an icelike mixture of rain and snow.
Bloom's Taxonomy Questions
Quote: "'You make the world by whispers...Feel the wall: is it not hard?' He smashes me against the wall, breaks open my forehead..." (Gardner 171)
While attacking the meadhall, Grendel says that he "Siezes up a sleeping man...bite through his bone-locks and suck hot, slippery blood." (Gardner 168) He feels successful in his quest for destruction at this point in the chapter, marking his progress with how many men he is guzzling down. He describes what this does to his surroundings, saying, "The napkin is sopping. The dark floor steams." (Gardner 168)
However, Beowulf exemplifies empiricism upon his discovery of Beowulf. A very intelligent being, Grendel pretends to know exactly what he's doing at all times. However, he is also highly instinctual, more influenced by impulse and sense experience than by reason. This is shown by the fact that Grendel only notices Beowulf after Beowulf grabs his wrist. (Grendel wasn't cautious upon entering the hall, not thinking ahead to see if any danger awaited him). This is further proven when Grendel says, "[Feeling a hand on my wrist] I jump back without thinking..." (Gardner 168)
"Where the water is rigid, there will be fish..." (Gardner 170)
"Shapes vague as lurking seaweed surround us."
"...moving in me like an ocean current, some monster inside me, deep sea wonder..."
Philosophers of Empiricism
Sydunham was an English physician who believed that medical knowledge could only be obtained through observation and experience. His idea influenced his personal friend John Locke.
Locke, who was also English, was another empiricist who is most known for his essay, "Two Treatises and the Essay Concerning Human Understanding." He said in this essay that he believed in two kinds of ideas: simple and complex. Simple ideas are sense experiences, coming from one or more primitive sensations. Complex ideas are formed by compiling several simple ideas into "modes, substances, and relations." Complex ideas don't relate to percievable objects.
1. What does Grendel do right before he begins attacking the Geats?
2. List two examples of powerful imagery in the chapter.
3. What would have happened if Grendel had payed more attention to his surroundings, and not let his bloodlust rule him?
4. What caused Grendel to associate Beowulf with the dragon?
5. Describe how Beowulf was different in this chapter compared to how he was in Beowulf.
When Grendel is being attacked by Beowulf, he blames it on chance, rather than his own inattention, saying, "If you win, it's by mindless chance. Make no mistake. First you tricked me, then I slipped. Accident." (Gardner 171)