Grendel: a Character Analysis

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Beowulf’s first villain Grendel is an exceptionally diverse character. His nature is ambiguous. He is a mix of man and beast and his fury is based on very human feelings of resentment and jealousy. Although Grendel is portrayed as an animal like demonic creature of some sort, upon further examination the reader begins to sympathize with the very human emotions that drive him to kill. Grendel is constantly portrayed as an evil creature in Beowulf. Before his name is even mentioned the narrator refers to him as a “powerful demon” (line 86). It is implied in the poem that Grendel has similar characteristics of a large animalistic beast; the author even refers to his murdering of the warriors inside Heorot as, “hunting for prey in the high hall” (line 713). Additionally, throughout the poem, Grendel only appears at night, as would a nocturnal hunting animal. His described physical appearance portrays him as an animalistic. When Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm off, it is described as being covered in impenetrable scales and horny growths; like that of a reptile. Grendel also possesses unnatural and seemingly inhuman strength that appears when he mercilessly kills the warriors in Heorot. The narrator states, “and his glee was demonic, picturing the mayhem: before morning he would rip life from limb and devour them, feed on their flesh” (lines 730-733). Grendel seems to take his only pleasure from assaulting Heorot and destroying the warriors inside. Grendel is seen almost as a demon, a creature that is “malignant by nature” and who “never showed remorse” (line 137). By describing Grendel in this way, we begin to think of him as evil mindless creature out to spread evil by wreaking havoc on Heorot. On the surface we are lead to believe that Grendel is completely evil and should lack our compassion or sympathy because he derives pleasure from these violent acts. Although Grendel has many animalistic attributes and a grotesque, monstrous appearance, he seems to be guided...
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