Beowulf - Age of Heroes vs. Age of Humanity

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The Age of Heroes vs. The Age of Humanity

The notion of alienation is a very unusual one yet it is a widespread feeling—a very subjective, somewhat indefinable feeling—and a critique of the nature of any society that exists today. This theme of a sense of estrangement from one’s surroundings, oneself, and other people, appears to be as old as history itself. Depicted in a new verse translation of “Beowulf”, by Seamus Heaney, as a man’s fight in a hostile world, much like an alien spirit, engaged in a battle which he cannot win. The comparison between the time gone by, examples from Beowulf’s time; The age of heroes, to the time that we live in today; the age of humanity, can be made by discussing three important aspects of this sensation. The first aspect is discussed through the description of alienation as a concept of individualism, in which the aspect reaches a point in time where individualism becomes a form of isolation. Examples from the royal Danish line from history and famous playwrights today are discussed to explain the parallels. The second aspect is made by discussing the contradiction made between what one thinks of oneself to the identity assigned to them by a larger society. Examples from the poem are given through the telling of Beowulf’s last epic battle with the dragon and how that experience parallels with the modern example of a philosopher’s fight for the recognition of his theory. The third aspect is explored by discussing the philosophical side of the notion. Exploring the side that portrays alienation as an individual feeling of oneself based on the understanding and accepting of one’s own uniqueness rather than the opinions and rejection of others. Examples taken from excerpts in the poem explain this aspect as the character of Grendal is discussed contrasting with modern society’s definition of ‘like’ expressed through the status quos of the many groups who exist in a state that only they control. All in all, alienation is defined as a historical continuity that has existed since Adam and Eve arrived as the very first inhabitants on this planet and from the moment of their creation were alienated from their culture upon their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This widespread feeling reached a point in time where the aspects of the theory became a criterion to which many fell victim and this continuity followed through to the age of humanity, in which many still fall victim as they struggle to break the iron cage that eventually forms as a person encounters this feeling of isolation, loss, despair, and rejection.

Alienation is a subjective feeling. This feeling of estrangement from the world eventually reaches a point where one aspect of it, individualism, becomes isolation. This concept was seen and experienced in the age of heroes and still exists today in modern society. Beowulf’s time was consistent with the emphasis put on the importance of establishing one’s identity. The concept of identity is central to the poem. An example of this can be seen when the reader is introduced to the world of Beowulf through the opening passage of the poem. The character of Beowulf is introduced, not by his name, but rather as his father’s son; just like any other male warrior in that era. In that time, warriors were unable to talk about themselves as an individual without referring to their families, heritage, or lineage because this criterion provided a model of certain behaviours’ that helped establish identity. This custom led to the belief that a good reputation was the only key to solidifying and establishing one’s identity and isolation on the part of the warrior because they had to struggle to take pride in what their ancestor’s achieved valiantly and attempt to live up to the standards set by them. If they failed to do so, they would be looked down upon by the others as they didn’t live up to the expectations of their ancestors. Another example of this can be seen in Beowulf when a legendary...
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