John Gardner’s Grendel is a novel that explores the concept of good vs. evil. The story is told from the perspective of the monster, Grendel, and his battle with the hero, Beowulf. At first, it may seem like a simple tale of good vs. evil, but there is much more to it than that.
Gardner challenges the traditional ideas of what is good and what is evil. He does this by making Grendel a sympathetic character. We see the world through Grendel’s eyes and come to understand his motivations. He is not simply a monster, he is a complex creature who is capable of emotions like love and fear.
Beowulf, on the other hand, is not as well-developed of a character. He is the typical heroic figure, brave and strong, but he is not as nuanced as Grendel. This makes him less relatable and less interesting.
The conflict between good and evil is not black and white in this novel. Gardner presents a more nuanced view of the world, which makes for a more complex and interesting story.
The anti-hero protagonist in John Gardner’s Grendel provides a fresh perspective on the old “good vs. evil” narrative. From the start of the book, it’s obvious that the narrator is someone special. It’s clear that he’s a highly perceptive individual who can write poetically about things. The conflict between good thanes and “evil” beast is one that most readers are familiar with.
John Gardner’s Grendel challenges the typical “good vs. evil” story by allowing the reader to question what is truly good and evil. Gardner employs various literary devices in order to question the concept of “good vs. evil.” One example is when Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother. In most stories, this would be considered a valiant act as he killed an evil creature that was terrorizing people.
However, in Grendel, Beowulf is painted as a murderer as he brutally kills Grendel’s mother without any remorse. The way Gardner describes the scene makes it clear that Beowulf does not see Grendel’s mother as a threat, but as an animal that needs to be killed. This allows the reader to question whether or not Beowulf is truly a good person.
Another literary device Gardner uses to question the concept of “good vs. evil” is irony. Throughout the novel, Grendel constantly tries to understand the humans and their concept of good and evil. He comes to the conclusion that humans are hypocritical creatures that cannot even comprehend what they are trying to achieve.
For example, Grendel sees the way humans praise heroes like Beowulf, but then turn around and criticize him when he makes a mistake. Grendel also sees how people will claim to be fighting for “good”, but in reality they are only fighting for their own personal gain. The irony in this novel is that Grendel, the “beast”, is able to see the truth about humans, while the humans are blind to their own hypocrisy.
John Gardner’s Grendel forces the reader to question the traditional “good vs. evil” plot by employing various literary devices. Through these devices, Gardner allows the reader to see the world through Grendel’s eyes and question whether or not humans are truly good or evil creatures.
The author allows his readers to see the other side of the coin by utilizing this viewpoint. As a result, throughout the book, the reader is able to comprehend how vital Grendel is in defining humanity. Grendel’s initial encounter with human beings that he totally defines isn’t a pleasant one. Grendel is discovered by a posse of thanes on routine patrol after getting trapped in a tree by accident. The “ridiculous” (ch. 2, p. 24) creatures that “moved by clicks” are not friendly towards him (ch. 2, p. 25).
However, the humans see Grendel as a “monstrous beast” (ch. 2, pp. 25) and immediately prepare to attack him. Grendel is perplexed by their reaction and wonders what he has done to deserve such treatment. He soon realizes that the humans are terrified of anything that they cannot understand and that they will therefore attack anything that is different from them. This encounter sets the tone for the rest of Grendel’s interactions with humans; they are characterized by fear and misunderstanding on both sides.
Grendel quickly becomes fascinated by these strange creatures that he has discovered. He begins to spend all of his time in the mead hall, observing the humans and trying to understand their behavior.
He is particularly interested in the stories that they tell each other; he sees these stories as a way for the humans to make sense of their lives. Grendel comes to believe that the stories are what give the humans their strength and power. He envies their ability to create stories and longs to be a part of them.
At the same time, Grendel also recognizes the darkness that exists within the human soul. He is repulsed by the violence and greed that he sees on display in the mead hall every night. The humans seem to take delight in inflicting pain on each other and on anything else that they can catch. Grendel sees the dark side of humanity, and it scares him.
In the end, Grendel comes to a sort of understanding with the humans. He recognizes that they are capable of both good and evil, and that they are not so different from him after all. He also comes to realize that the stories they tell are what give them their power. Grendel may not be able to create his own stories, but he can appreciate the ones that the humans have created.
The thanes are apprehensive about the situation, since they have no idea what Grendel is. They are afraid of anything that differs from their previous experiences, much like animals. When Grendel attempts to communicate, the thanes demonstrate their ignorance and simplicity. Instead of investigating the difference in their world carefully, they become alarmed and decide to destroy it. The reader may believe that the humans had every right to attack because they were unable to view the narrative from Grendel’s perspective.
However, once the reader is able to see things from Grendel’s perspective it becomes clear that the humans are the true monsters. Grendel’s point of view allows for a different understanding of good and evil. In his eyes, the humans are nothing but animals who are constantly attacking him and trying to kill him.
He does not understand why they cannot just leave him alone and he does not see himself as being evil. The humans, on the other hand, see Grendel as a monster who must be destroyed in order to protect themselves. They believe that they are the good ones and that Grendel is purely evil. However, it is important to note that the humans are also motivated by fear.
Grendel’s second premature attack on the shaper is another example of this same sort of simple-mindedness. Grendel cries, “‘Mercy! Peace!’” (ch. 4, p. 0) in an effort to be saved by the god of these men before he dies. The men, intoxicated, misunderstand Grendel’s intentions and once again attack him. Instead of murdering the men, which would have been a simple task for Grendel, he escapes into the night as a victim.
John Gardner defines Grendel as a victim in this novel by having him constantly misunderstood and attacked. Grendel is also further defined as a victim because he is an outsider in society. He is not part of the civilized world of men and therefore feels lost and out of place. The only time Grendel feels at home is when he is with his mother in their cave. John Gardner uses the character of Grendel to show that even the most evil of creatures can be victims too.
Grendel also classifies the humans’ view of a hero in this passage. Grendel not only allows heroes to exist, but he also gives them a meaning in life. Grendel is the monster lurking in the shadows who every loyal thane would defend his king against. This nice scenario would not exist if it weren’t for Grendel. On the other hand, because to his ability to humiliate and make someone called a coward, Grendel is comparable to Unferth. Because he would fight “the monster” Grendel or attempt to do so and lose his life, Unferth is seen as a hero among evil men.
Beowulf had killed Grendel’s mother which led to Grendel’s obsession with revenge. He was not able to avenge his mother until he met Beowulf. When Unferth taunted him about his swimming match, Grendel lost all reason and attacked him. This caused Unferth to be exiled from Heorot. Although Grendel is the “villain” of the story, he actually provides the heroic deeds that the Danesperforming in order to make themselves feel important.
Gardner’s intention for writing Grendel from Grendel’s point of view may have been to show how humans are never satisfied. They are always looking for something more to occupy their time. Grendel was content with his life until he met the humans and learned of their heroic deeds. He became disgruntled with his life and wanted more.
John Gardner may have also been trying to say that humans will always find something to fight about, no matter how content they are. The Danes were content with their lives until Grendel came along and disrupted the peace. They felt the need to defend their honor and prove their bravery. In conclusion, John Gardner’s Grendel is a story that shows the never ending battle between good and evil. Grendel represents the evil in the world that humans must constantly fight against.