The clash between good and evil has been a prominent theme in literature. The Bible presents the conflict between good and evil in the story of Adam and Eve. Many authors use the scene in the Bible in which the snake taunts and tempts Adam and Eve to take a bite of the apple of knowledge to demonstrate the frailty of humankind. John Gardner provides these same biblical allusions of good and evil in his novel, Grendel.
One of Grendel's archenemies is the human. Humans refuse to look beyond Grendel's unattractive exterior, and spend most of their days trying to kill Grendel. One night when Grendel is watching their mead hall, he sees them "treating their sword-blades with snake's venom"(Gardner 29). Another conflict between humans and serpents develops when Grendel is watching the Shaper for the first time. As he listens, he "snatche[s] up a snake from beside [his] foot"(40), and holds it in his fist as he listens to the Shaper sing. The snake represents the deceptive weaving of history that the Shaper performs in Hrothgar's mead hall. Grendel interacts with one of the priests, Ork, in the circle of Gods, by pretending to be the Great Destroyer. Ork predicts that the Great Destroyer will eventually fall, foreshadowing Grendel's battle with Beowulf. Ork tells his fellow priests about his conversation with the Great Destroyer, but they just "look down at him as they would at a wounded snake"(118). In Grendel's eyes, all humans are evil, because they refuse to take the time to understand him. Because of this, Grendel battles the humans throughout the novel until one of them finally takes his life.
The only human brave and strong enough to defeat Grendel was the powerful Geat, Beowulf. Grendel watches Beowulf and his band of Geats land their ships on the shores of Hrothgar's kingdom. Grendel observes Beowulf speaking to the coastguard, and notices that Beowulf's eyes are "slanted downward, never blinking, unfeeling as a snake's"(135). Grendel's...
Cited: Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.
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