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Transcript of Grendel
By: Maddison Carey, Amber Manuel, Courtney Henderson, & Mimi Haley
“And all at once, as if by sudden vision, I understood the emptiness in the eyes of those humpbacked shapes back in the cave. (Were they my brothers, my uncles, those creatures shuffling brimstone-eyed from room to room, or sitting separate, isolated, muttering forever like underground rivers, each in his private inviolable gloom?)” (Gardner 21)
“’Why can’t I have somebody to talk to?’ I said. The stars said nothing, but I pretended to ignore their rudeness. ‘The Shaper has people to talk to,’ I said. I wrung my fingers. ‘Hrothgar has people to talk to.’” (Gardner 53)
Grendel feels immense loneliness. He craves social interaction and a sense of community. Although he lives within close proximity to many other monsters, he knows nothing about them and feels no sense of community. All he desires is somebody to talk with and feel an emotional connection with. His lack of community leads Grendel to feel isolated and this isolation brings about anger and aggression.
Grendel lacks a sense of community with those who surround him. The people of Hrothgar’s village are a community, and when Grendel tries to befriend them he is feared and met with aggression. The animals that live in the forest are either fearful or indifferent to Grendel. The other monsters that live in the underwater cave seem to not even acknowledge the existence of Grendel. He finds himself unable to find a place in society, and as a result he takes it upon himself to create a purpose. He becomes the destroyer in order to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Because he lacks community, Grendel begins to act like the monster he is.
Grendel, with his
attitude, feels rage toward humans, animals and the universe as a whole.
House for Sale! Grendel's Cave
In loving memory of Grendel...
Grendel by John Gardner encompasses several themes such as: the meaning and/or meaninglessness of life, the power of Art/Song/Language, but most importantly the need of community. Reading and witnessing Wealtheow, Hrothulf, and Unferth’s journey to find acceptance evokes surface-level sadness; however, Grendel’s lust for a community shakes me to the core and leaves my heart heinous towards those who misunderstand such a heart-broken creature. Initially, I did not understand this misanthrope-like-creature from Beowulf and wholeheartedly believed he deserved to suffer an “accident.” However, John Gardner provides a valuable explanation for Grendel’s mannerisms; which, leaves me ashamed of my previous notions against Grendel’s. Grendel’s personality is a classic case of Henry Harlow’s psychological thesis: by showing the devastating effects of deprivation on young rhesus monkeys, Harlow revealed the importance of a mother's love for healthy childhood development. Due to Grendel not having a conventional relationship with his mother, he grew to be more aggressive and disturbed by other’s instinctual behaviors. Learning Grendel’s childhood implanted a caring and nurturing spot in my heart for him. The need of community’s impact on Grendel –as well as other characters- put into perspective how I treat people and preserve their behaviors. Overall, Grendel is a novel that can be read several times and something new will be learned about Grendel, as well as myself.
The need for community personifies the character’s actions from: Unferth trying to kill Grendel for respect, Wealthoew being “sacrificed” to establish peace/unity, and Grendel speaking with the Dragon to find his identity. Grendel’s whole-being is consumed with finding his purpose after he is shunned by men. The setting of Grendel takes place during the Anglo-Saxon period. The Anglo-Saxon era was heavily orientated in abiding by a loyalty system; which created a secure sense of community and reliability. Grendel notices how the men relate to each other and longs to be among his “brothers”, since he knows the ram and goat are less than he and the men. The tone of the novel is Grendel attempting to maintain a satirical, mocking distance throughout the novel, but often finds himself slipping into an impassioned earnestness; due to his desire to have a purpose and family-orientated relationship he lacks with his mother. Although Grendel can understand the humans, they cannot understand him and they become frightened, which leads to a fight between Grendel and the Danish warriors, including Hrothgar. Once the fighting unfolds, so does the plot involving the theme, need for community. He attempts and fails to communicate with his mother, thus leaving him with a sense of total loneliness. Through his loneliness he seeks a friend in the Dragon. The Dragon enjoys cruelty, and believes life is pointless. Grendel tries to talk to him about the Shaper, but the dragon dismissed the songs as an attempt to create meaning and community where there was none. He told Grendel to do whatever he wanted, because there was absolutely no reason not to. Though Grendel is confused by this advice, and doesn't entirely believe it, he is influenced by the dragon. The feelings of rage and isolation he has always had are finally supported. He has a new confidence in his animal need to kill. Plus, the dragon has enchanted him, so he can't be hurt by sword or any blade. This forces him further into isolation and a lust for community. Grendel’s rage puts him a further disadvantage to find a community; which is why he feels no sadness at his death by Beowulf. Grendel dies without having found a place he truly belongs and wishes ill fate on those who rejected him.
The Dragon metaphorically represents the flamboyant zodiac sign of Leo. Leo is the zodiac sign, the lion is the symbol, and knowledge is the heroic value. The dragon is obviously the “lion” in this chapter. His knowledge is existential and nihilist. The dragon convinces Grendel to terrorize the Danes when he urges him to “seek gold and sit on it” and “scare men to glory.” The marvelously horrid dragon, jealously guarding his treasure, is the theoretically the biggest sinner since, hoarding was a sin in the Anglo-Saxon era. The sign is Leo ruled by the Sun in the house of children’s creativity. The Leo’s value/knowledge is particularly the illumination acquired from an oracle or mentor. Like Odysseus and Aeneas, Grendel goes to the underworld for advice but, in a chapter of inversions, returns armored with despair rather than hope. Here Grendel is less monstrous than bewildered child seeking enlightenment. But the sun he encounters is a terrifying nothingness, the "black sun" he sees deep within the dragon's eye. For, though golden and fiery as a lion, the dragon, with his cracked voice and debauched leer, has none of the energy of a true Leo. (As a character, however, he is a wonderful embodiment of evil, the most vivid character Grendel encounters.) A nihilist, claiming omniscience, he sneers at men’s "crackpot theories," their systems of philosophy that will never embrace "total reality" (pp. 55-56). All quests for knowledge are meaningless since in the end nothing will remain but a "silent universe" (p. 61). The only advice the dragon can offer is: "Know how much you've got and beware of strangers!" a cynical distortion of the Delphic oracle's injunction to "know thyself" (p. 63). Ultimately, the Dragon serves as a leader -as most Leos- to Grendel because he helps him see is purpose as “Ruiner of Mead halls, Wrecker of Kings” (p.80).
1. easily provoked to anger; very irritable: an irascible old man.
2. characterized or produced by anger: an irascible response.
Stories of Grendel...
Grendel is just a lonely being who feels he has no purpose in the world, and since he has no one in the world to communicate with, he decides to make himself heard and give himself some sort of purpose. All his life Grendel lacked any sort of direction or guidance. Even his mother failed to communicate with Grendel and teach him about the world and his purpose. This had a huge impact on Grendel's upbringing into who he decided to become. I pity poor Grendel because he has no one in the world to talk to. He just sits around watching Hrothgar's mead hall as if it were reality TV. Grendel only desired to find a purpose and find someone to talk to, but instead, Grendel was portrayed as an evil monster to the humans by the scop. This, unfortunately, gives Grendel the idea for his purpose. Grendel became the "destroyer of mead halls" because this was the first time anyone had really acknowledged Grendel as living and as something rather than nothing at all. This gave Grendel determination to make a name for himself, whether it be good or bad. Grendel's ultimate decision to become a true monster towards the humans was only because he wanted to be known and to be heard, and he figured it better be known and feared than forgotten and ignored.
Jordan Pruitt's song "Outside Looking In," perfectly portrays the same theme present in John Gardner's novel "Grendel." Just as Grendel struggles to find a place or role to play in his life, Jordan Pruitt also struggles to find a place among her peers or simply to find a friend to confide in. However, by the end of the song, Ms. Pruitt still has yet to find a place to "fit in," whereas Grendel comes to find a peace of mind at the end of the novel, and a place for him in the world. Grendel and Ms. Pruitt are excellent examples of the struggle the majority of teenagers face while going through their "awkward years," and the path of maturity the very same kids take to become young adults, realizing and finding their place in the world
Reading John Gardner's novel, Grendel, was an interesting adventure for me. As a senior in high school, I can honestly say that throughout my senior high experience, there have been times when I have felt just as secluded and out of place as Grendel felt in the novel. Growing up can be cruel and feel just as much of an endless battle between friends, family, school, and extracurricular activities as Grendel's literal battle with Beowulf and the rest of Hrothgar's men. Just as Grendel developed into maturity and found his place among society, I have now further discovered myself and how I can play a role and fit into my society, matriculating through high school and college and eventually settling down with a job and starting a family of my own. Grendel has taught me a very important life lesson: I am not alone in this world, and should do everything in my power to make everyone else aware that they are not alone either.