John Gardner uses symbolism, imagery, and character placement to weave astrology into the very fabric of his novel, Grendel. Each of the twelve chapters corresponds to one of the twelve astrological signs. The author purposely did this and hints to it on page nine with the quote, “cold mechanics of the stars” (Gardner 9). The stars are the guide to the world and all the characters in it in this novel.
In astrology, Aries is considered a new beginning and, in turn, begins John Gardner’s novel (Heindel 163). This chapter focuses on the cyclical nature of astrology. According to Grendel, this is the twelfth year of his “idiotic war” (Gardner 5). He notes that this year will, more than likely, be just like all those before it and also says the same of the ram. The ram is the symbol of Aries (Levine). To emphasize the cycle of his life, Grendel says “So it goes with me day by day and age by age… Locked in the deadly progression of moon and stars” (Gardner 8). This quotation also includes the subtle nod to astrology. He mentions the cycle of going down to attack the village and how, afterwards, repairs will be made to the village.
Chapter two is centered on Taurus, the astrological sign represented by a bull. The common traits associated with Taurus are persistence, tenacity, sturdiness, and security (Somerville). While Grendel is trapped in a tree, a bull attacks him. The bull is persistent in his attack, indicative of a Taurus. Grendel also has persistence as he pushes through the struggles in his life. Grendel is much like Sisyphus in this regard (Camus). Grendel is pushing a figurative rock up a figurative hill.
The astrology sign related to chapter three is Gemini. Gemini is also known as “the twins”. Grendel comments on page forty-four, “Every sheep and goat had its wobbly twins” (Gardner 44). Gemini is lively, communicative, flexible, sociable, and literary (Heindel 121). This sign is portrayed as the Shaper. The very nature of the...
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