Grendel & Existentialism

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“I understood that the world was nothing; a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly-as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back.”

Existentialism is a philosophy that I, personally, was unfamiliar with until we talked about it in class. The relationship between Grendel and existentialism was profound to me not only in the way that it drew lines of symmetry, but in the way that it helped me to interpret the concepts behind the philosophy.

This quote spoke to me because it demonstrates how Grendel is pressured into living an existentialist lifestyle by the very forces that he says push upon him. Grendel delves into the psyche of a man-beast whose only choice is to react to the world as an existentialist; the world (specifically mankind) exemplifies all of existentialism’s concepts, proving Grendel’s niche to be that of an existentialist.

“Dark chasms!” I scream from the cliff-edge, “seize me! Seize me to your foul black bowels and crush my bones!” I am terrified at the sound of my own huge voice in the darkness ... At the same time, I am secretly unfooled. The uproar is only my own shriek, and chasms are, like all things vast, inanimate. They will not snatch me in a thousand years, unless, in a lunatic fit of religion, I jump.” [Grendel, pg. 10]

Grendel knows that he is alone, despite his attempts to fool himself. This is ratified by his mother’s inability to speak to him, the fear animals have of him, and the rejection he receives from mankind. He has no explanation for anything in existence due to his inability to communicate with anyone, until the dragon comes along. “My knowledge of the future does not cause the future. It merely sees it, exactly as creatures at your low level recall things past. And even if, say, I interfere - ... - even then I do not change...
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