Deconstructionist Analysis of Beowulf

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The epic poem Beowulf is a much beloved classical story about a hero and a monster. Hero meets monster, monster is destroyed and then hero goes on to defeat yet another monster. Finally hero dies a heroic death and he is buried, but never forgotten because his faithful followers always remember him and continue to pass down the stories of his heroism. But what if the story, actually contradicted itself? What if the poem wasn’t so “cut and dried” as one might think? Beowulf exemplifies deconstructionist concepts through the characters Beowulf, Hrothgar and Wiglaf that contradict the values, beliefs and hierarchies presented throughout the text.

One of the values that are held dear in Beowulf is heroism. Beowulf himself is supposed to a representation of this; he is supposed to be and actual hero. However his actions against Grendel seem to prove that he is not actually a hero. Beowulf acted out in ager and exacted an unnecessary vengeance on Grendel after he killed Grendel’s mother: “But Beowulf repaid him for those visits/ found him lying dead in his corner/ Armless…. then struck off his head with a single blow.” (pp. 59 ll. 540-544) Grendel was already dead, but Beowulf was still angry and attacked an adversary that could not defend himself, a dishonorable deed by almost every culture’s measure. Hero’s do not let themselves act out in anger as Beowulf did; just one of the points proving that he was not a hero.

Another example that Beowulf does not exemplify heroism as he is portrayed to in the poem is his lust for fame. Some characteristics of a hero are that he cares about doing the right thing and cares about the people; that is why he is called a hero. However Beowulf is shown to care about fame more. The poem says “But Beowulf longed only for fame/ leaped back into battle/ … so fame comes to men who care mean to win/ and care for nothing else.” (pp 58 ll. 485-492) showing that Beowulf cares about winning, and the fame that comes with it more than...
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