Grendel Character Analysis You are here:
Beowulf follows the Geatish hero as he arrives to aid the Danish king Hrothgar, whose people suffer from attacks by the savage monster, Grendel.
Beowulf spends most of the poem showing off his strength by doing seemingly-impossible deeds in order to boost his reputation. In his novel adaptation, Gardner turns Grendel into an engaging and sympathetic character who is both consciously funny and unwittingly amusing.
The old ram stands looking down over rockslides, stupidly triumphant. I stare in horror. I hammer the ground with my fists. I hurl a skull-size stone at him. He will not budge. I shake my two hairy fists at the sky and I let out a howl so unspeakable that the water at my feet turns sudden ice and even I myself am left uneasy.
But the ram stays; the season is upon us. And so begins the twelfth year of my idiotic war. The pain of it! Reviewers of the novel observe that the monsters in Grendel act more humanely than do the humans.
Upon venturing out of his cave, Grendel becomes stuck in a tree and is discovered by a band of humans that includes a young Hrothgar. The humans decide that Grendel, to them an unrecognizable furry creature, must be a hungry tree-spirit: They jerked away and stood shaking, looking up.
Grendel frequently laughs, but the humans, who take every sound as a serious threat, believe he is angry and respond with violence and fear. The seriousness with which the humans take their belief—as well as their complete inability to decipher laughter from anger—is what leads them to try to kill him.
It is the humans—not the monsters—who are unable to read emotions accurately and react appropriately because they allow their fear to dictate their responses. This seriousness on the part of the humans is the result of the work of a Shaper, or scop, the Old English storyteller.
The dragon is capable of seeing past, present and future time, and this ability has led him to become a strict materialist. Gold, not reputation or glory, is a tangible substance and the only source of meaning for the dragon, who attempts to convert Grendel to his materialist viewpoint.
The dragon in Grendel becomes a kind of scop, a storyteller who presents his claims as truth. By finding no meaning in life, the dragon represents one extreme while the humans, who create too much meaning, present the opposite extreme. The reader sympathizes with Grendel, who is caught between the two poles, as he struggles with his desire to find meaning and his rejection of the meanings that both the dragon and the humans create.
Through Grendel, Gardner challenges his readers to undergo the same philosophical struggle as his protagonist. While Grendel insists on his belief in the meaninglessness of human values, he still wants to find meaning in his own life.
You improve them, my boy! You make them think and scheme.
You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves. Unferth, another example of a human invested in his own legend, stakes the gain or loss of his reputation—his standing in his own eyes and in the eyes of his fellows—on the confrontation.
He took a tentative step toward me, then paused, holding his sword out and shaking it. Yet to do this, Grendel uses a form of imagination—humor—that makes him sympathetic to the reader.
Later in the novel, when Unferth fights his way through a lake of fire-snakes to challenge Grendel in his den, the hopeful hero is too tired to pick up his sword and he falls asleep in front of the very creature he intended to kill.
I laugh when I see him. He throws himself at me, or he cunningly sneaks up behind, sometimes in disguise—a goat, a dog, a sickly old woman—and I roll on the floor with laughter.
So much for heroism. If Unferth were a stronger, braver warrior, he would have followed Grendel under the fiery lake and tried to kill him.
In the poem, Beowulf assumes that because Grendel is a monster, and monsters kill indiscriminately, Unferth could not be alive if the young warrior had confronted Grendel. Instead, Gardner narrates a scene in which Unferth is brave enough to attempt to kill Grendel—the warrior simply fails.
This reversal calls into question assumptions about the black-and-white nature of monsters and heroes.In John Gardner’s Grendel, Grendel, both the main character and narrator of the story, narrates the story from a first person point of view. I feel that this adds a personal touch to the story because all the emotions he describes are raw emotions.
Grendel study guide contains a biography of John Gardner, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Grendel study guide contains a biography of John Gardner, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a . Characters See a complete list of the characters in Grendel and in-depth analyses of Grendel, The Dragon, The Shaper, and Beowulf.
Grendel is an unhappy soul in John Gardner's book 'Grendel', because he feels useless in society and doesn't want to accept his given role. Throughout this whole book Grendel feels he has no friend in the outside word and no one to except him besides his own mother.
In the epic tale of Beowulf and John Gardner's novel called Grendel, the most striking difference is Gardner's decision to have Grendel tell his own story, thus making the monster a more.
The Characters' Personalities in "Grendel" and "Beowulf" Essay Words 5 Pages The book Grendel, written by John Gardner, and the poem Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, both have very distinct opinions on what role each character plays.