The Decision To Renounce Tradition Leads to Downfall
The purpose of the criticism Beowulf by Richard Bodek was to altercate the Christian overtones and how the characters choose to stray from them, choosing tradition values instead. Bodek addresses the frequent use of the word God, and how Beowulf attempts to give God credit for his great deeds, but in response Hrothgar administers a sermon advising him not to do so. The purpose of the criticism is to brandish that in the epic poem Beowulf, Hrothgar correlates choosing to try and please God with squandering away one’s prosperity.
There are many scenes in this epic poem that point toward a Christian overtone. Specifically when Beowulf returns to the hall of Hrothgar to declare victory, and how “[His] only expressed pride in the deed arose from doing God’s work, with God’s aid” (Bodek 1). Hrothgar dismisses Beowulf giving credit to God and proceeds to “invoke traditional values. These include the strongly held belief that ring-giving and companionship without violence make for a happy life”(2). Hrothgar wants to teach Beowulf that service to God is deficient in achieving happiness in life. Service to God will have the opposite effect because it will always be insufficient and God will never be satiated. Bodek addresses the story of Cain and Able, and how “Cain was only damned to Hell on earth after he attempted to please God...Only after this rejected gift-giving took place did Cain kill Abel. By Hrothgar’s logic, the traditional values, if followed, would have averted the tragedy”(2).
In cessation, it is impossible to ignore the theme of Christianity in Beowulf. Bodek, however, looks at it in an entirely different perspective. Rather than only focus on the theme of Christianity, his focus is on how the characters in the book who chose to reject the ideas of Christianity and pleasing God lived to lead happier lives than those who fell short in their attempts to please God.
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