Grendel Characterization Essay

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Who is the Real Grendel?
“Things are not always as they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” (Phaedrus) This quote applies directly to man’s perception of Grendel in Beowulf as translated by Burton Raffel. The true character of Grendel is revealed in Grendel by John Gardener. These two works show Grendel as a bloodthirsty monster that murders warriors within King Hrothgar’s hall. Grendel is characterized in very different ways in these two depictions. They agree that Grendel led an angry unhappy life, he is a descendent of Cain and he is gleeful during his final attack. Their differences include: the way Grendel felt about the conflict, his motives for killing the warriors and whether he was a merciless monster. Beowulf and Grendel agree on a few key elements of Grendel’s character. Grendel led an unhappy life. “He journeyed forever joyless.” (line 402) Grendel continues on his murderous path without happiness. “I hold conversation with the only friend and comfort this world affords, my shadow. “ (Gardener 3) Grendel has no friends to confer with and so relies on himself for comfort. These lines show the loneliness and unhappiness that color Grendel’s life. Another common thread between the two depictions is the fact that Grendel is of the race of Cain. He was, “Conceived by a pair of those monsters born Of Cain, murderous creatures banished By God, punished forever.” (lines 19-22) Grendel is the descendant of the first murderer and this idea is also reflected in Grendel. “I, Grendel, was the dark side… the terrible race God cursed.” (Gardener 43)The last main trait that is shared by both of these texts is that Grendel is gleeful during his last attack. “He’s found no fighting here, but only food, only delight.” (lines 330-331) Grendel has never faced resistance before his final attack and delights in returning to the hall night after night. “I am swollen with excitement, bloodlust and joy … that mingle in my chest like the twisting rage of a...
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