Literary Merit and Its Significance to Beowulf

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Kayla M. Demaray
Mrs. Walker
Senior English
6 November 2009
Literary Merit and Its Significance to Beowulf
Any acceptable novel has some type of significance enclosed in the structure of its story. So just what establishes this? These thoughts, expressions and meanings the author hopes to accomplish should always contain sophisticated literary merit. Well known epic poem, Beowulf, accomplishes its merit through masterfully infused figurative language, two of which are most common, alliteration and kennings.

Beowulf is largely constructed around the monsters, condemned as outcasts, seeking out revenge. In Raffel’s translation he utilizes devises such as alliteration and kennings to emphasize and build fear of the monsters, add to suspense and accentuate action in the text. In lines 36-37 of the textbook’s, “From Beowulf,” Raffel uses alliteration in describing Grendel’s murderous crime, “He slipped through the door and there in silence / Snatched up thirty men, smashed them…” The repetition of the “s” consonant sound elicits a fear and adds to the suspense of the story. It indicates the sanguinary of the slaughter, and the savageness of the sadist. In addition, in line 74 Raffel represents Grendel as a shadow of death, “That shadow of death hunted in the darkness, / Stalked Hrothgar’s warriors, old / And young, lying in waiting, hidden…always there, unseen.” Grendel is also referred to as a “heathen brute,” and “sin-stained demon.” The device is helpful to the story, creating a metaphoric quality, signifying certain characteristics the author wants to be presented of the character.

Although Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf is far different from Raffel’s his devices accomplish the same significance. In lines 122-125 Heaney also uses alliteration in describing Grendel’s powers of destruction, “Greedy and grim he grabbed thirty men…blundering back with the butchered corpses.” Heaney’s use of alliteration is used differently in consonant...
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