The book Grendel by John Gardner is about a monster, named Grendel, who involves himself with humans. It goes back in time to show the origins of the conflict between them and also to show Grendel’s personal change within. The novel provides the view of the “monster” that everyone in Beowulf feared and hated. It showcases how certain events and experiences shaped Grendel, not only as a monster, but as a human and observer.
The story focuses on Grendel’s different philosophies of thought. He observes the local humans, the Scyldings’ development as a civilization and as individuals. His first encounters with the outside world are both bewildering and melancholy. His encounter with a bull and humans leads to his search for personal meaning and his desire to torment the humans. All these things show that Grendel is not a monster, but a non-human who possesses human-like qualities, such as emotion and thoughts.
Beowulf portrays Grendel as a savage beast, who is solely driven by his nonhuman instincts to torture humans. It gives the reader the feeling that he does not possess the same thought processes as humans do; therefore, he is characterized as a monster. However, in this novel, Grendel’s point of view and thoughts are more developed and deeper than how he is portrayed in Beowulf. The readers get a glimpse of the story through his eyes and it may change their view of Grendel. He is a solitary and disoriented creature who is misunderstood by humans and all those around him. He looks for a place to belong and his quest is to know who and what he is.
“I had become something, as if born again. I had hung between possibilities before, between the cold truths I knew and the heart-sucking conjuring tricks of the Shaper; now that was passed: I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone.” Grendel states this at the end of Chapter 6 and it marks the start of his 12-year war against the humans. It’s significant because it’s Grendel’s step in creating his own identity and place in the world for the first time. It not only indicates that Grendel has a role of the humans’ nemesis but that now, more than ever before, Grendel was alone because he has destroyed the possibility of ever befriending the humans.