Meaning in a Meaningless Place
In Grendel, by John Gardner, the character Grendel considers the world to be cyclical and ponders the meaning of existence. Throughout the novel, the Shaper sings songs which persuade listeners to think life and the universe is greater than it actually is. The Shaper represents the power of illusions to create meaning in a meaningless place. The affects he has on the characters, builds the themes and conflicts in the novel. The power to create illusions is based on lies and deception which, if done correctly and effectively, will mislead people into believing something that isn’t true. Potentially, illusions can corrupt reality in personal life and society as a whole. Grendel and Hrothgar are two examples of characters which have been affected personally as the rest of the Danes (Humans/Skylding) as a whole, feed off of the Shaper’s lies to create comfort in their lives. Grendel is aware that the Shaper’s songs are built on lies but still finds the stories power seductive. In turn, he wished he had something greater to live for and believe in. At one point, He bursts into tears and briefly loses his ability to speak. Sometimes throughout the novel, Grendel’s mind is overwhelmed by the emotional response he has to the Shaper’s art. This is a apparent conflict between Grendel and himself, as well as Grendel and the Shaper. At times, Grendel is willing to accept the role of the monster just to have a place in the Shaper’s world. Grendel is also affected by the narrative the Shaper tells. When Grendel begins war with Hrothgar, he triumphantly refers to himself as “Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings!” In chapter 4, the shaper sings of a meadhall that would “shine to the ends to the ends of the ragged world”. This manipulates Hrothgar and causes him to create a meadhall on the top of a hill, and represent political power. The Shaper masters “creating” a separate world, which is irresistible to most characters of the novel...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document