Motifs in Grendel

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  • Topic: Zodiac, Astrological sign, Aries
  • Pages : 2 (733 words )
  • Download(s) : 1640
  • Published : April 21, 2012
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Throughout John Gardner’s novel, Grendel, there are many literary tools and compositional risks used to support the overall meaning of the story and to show change in the main character, Grendel. One compositional risk that Gardner uses extremely effectively is motif. A motif is defined as recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the piece’s major themes. The most effective motif Gardner uses over the course of the novel is the recurring references to the signs of the zodiac. Other important motifs referenced in Grendel are the seasons, machinery, and the number twelve. Starting in chapter one, Gardner effectively uses the zodiac signs to reinforce the changes in Grendel and the changes in time. Grendel is split into twelve chapters, each corresponding to a different zodiac sign. In each chapter, one of the twelve zodiac signs is referenced at least once. The zodiac references also appear in the exact order as the calendar, starting with Aries in chapter one and ending with Pisces in chapter twelve. In fact, the very first sentence of the novel is a reference to the first zodiac sign. “The old ram stands looking down over rockslides, stupidly triumphant.” (Gardner 5) This is a very simple zodiac reference and other simple references occur in chapters two and ten, when Grendel encounters a bull and goat respectively. However, some of the zodiac references are tougher to locate. Chapters five and seven are among the difficult references. Chapter five refers to Leo the Lion, but a lion is never mentioned in the text. Chapter seven refers to Libra the Balance. The reader must infer the peace offering of Wealtheow to represent a force of balance between the Scyldings and the Helmings. Another motif used extremely effectively throughout Grendel is the seasons. Grendel is not a novel written in chronological order. The book begins somewhat at the end, then enters a series of flashbacks, and ends in the present....
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