Life is What You Make of it
Life is a process of growth and learning. It is begun with limited knowledge, and through personal experiences, that knowledge may grow to a profound understanding of one’s true nature. This understanding is wisdom. All people inherently lack wisdom and only age is capable of elucidating it. In Seamus Heaney’s narration of Beowulf, Beowulf commences his heroic journey as a young, ignorant warrior, and as he grows in both age and experience, he gains wisdom and realizes that he is not the immortal warrior he once believed he was.
Beowulf’s journey begins when he is implored by the Geats to defeat the monster Grendel. In order to “heighten Hyeglac’s fame and gladden his heart” Beowulf decides to forsake the use of weapon and shield in his battle with Grendel (435-36). He displays the confidence and arrogance that are hallmarks of brazen youth. His reckless abandonment of protection renders him unnecessarily prone to harm. Beowulf eventually triumphs over Grendel following an arduous contest and is “praised over and over again” by the grateful Geats (856). This praise only feeds his egotistical mentality. His sense of invincibility is only heightened by his victory and while he may be seemingly untouchable in his youthful prowess, age will soon sap him of his greatness. Even though he is confident to the point of recklessness, Beowulf’s heroic abilities cannot be denied and he continues to add to his legacy after his defeat of Grendel.
In the next stage of Beowulf’s quest he is pitted against Grendel’s mother. In this battle he has grown wiser and dons armor, and fortunately so as the “mesh of chain-mail on Beowulf’s shoulder shielded his life” from the soul-stealing stab delivered by his foe (1547-48). This near-death experience illustrates Beowulf’s decline in power. No longer is he capable of heedlessly throwing himself against evil using only his brute strength. As the battle with Grendel’s mother...
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