Pretending Not To Care
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “What does nihilism mean? That the highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; ‘why?’ finds no answer”. Nietzsche reasons that when a society values anything—an object, a person, or a philosophy—it becomes a challenge to see who can obtain it, and those who cannot, form this idea that the value is pointless. He goes on to say that while those who cannot obtain it may act like they don’t care about this value, they still ask ‘why?’ to try to understand why others see its value, but are never able to and are rejected by their society. Grendel and the Anglo-Saxon society are an example of this. While the Anglo-Saxons went about their life, Grendel watched from a distance. Although Grendel had never been a part of the Anglo-Saxon society, he tried to understand them. In this scenario, Grendel is seen as the reject, being that he had tried to befriend them but was unsuccessful, which causes him to question life and act out. By comparing the Anglo-Saxon’s beliefs and attitude with Grendel’s, one can see that Grendel develops a nihilistic view as a way to, emotionally, protect himself.
In order to understand why Grendel was rejected, one must consider the society’s values and where he was coming from. Grendel spent most of his time his time observing the Anglo-Saxon society yet he did not have the same attitude towards their values as them, so they reject him. Part of the Scyldings’s culture was to fight neighboring kingdoms to protect their kingdom. As a peace offering, the neighboring king gave Hrothgar, the king of the Scyldings, his sister. This was not an odd offering as Hrothgar willingly accepted her but Grendel did not understand: “My chest was full of pain, my eyes smarted, and I was afraid—O monstrous trick against reason—I was afraid I was about to sob. I wanted to smash things, bring down the night with my howl of rage” (Gardner, 100). To Hrothgar, receiving the woman was simply part of...
Cited: Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.
Heaney, Seamus, trans. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.
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