November 3, 2014
Beowulf and his Altruistic Actions
Madison gives up her seat on the bus for a student with crutches. Meanwhile, David sits out of his soccer game to let the freshman play for the first time all season. At the same time, Julie sacrifices her time to help tutor someone who is struggling in her class. Madison, David, and Julie are all altruistic because they put others before themselves, just like Beowulf in the epic poem Beowulf. Readers of Beowulf should all agree that in Beowulf’s time of sacrificing his life for King Hrothgar’s kingdom, he is acting out of altruism, not hubris because he sacrifices his life for the well-being of others, with no benefit to himself. Beowulf acts altruistically for the people of Hrothgar’s kingdom and for his family. First, readers should agree Beowulf acts altruistically for the people of Hrothgar’s kingdom because he sacrifices himself to defeat Grendel. Beowulf proves his altruism when he says, “…That I, alone and with the help of my men,/ may purge all evil from this hall (165-166). Here, Beowulf says he wants to defeat the monster Grendel so the people of Herot will not be in danger. Is this not altruism? Is this not representative of hero-like qualities? Beowulf knows he can defeat Grendel and stop the killing of Hrothgar’s people, but when Beowulf has to defeat Grendel’s mother so she could avenge her son’s death, he is not so certain he can win. “…no sword could slice her evil/ skin, that Hrunting could not hurt her…” (599-600). Here, Beowulf almost dies when he fights Grendel’s mother since his sword is useless, and so what benefit does he have in fighting her besides preventing her from taking Grendel’s place and killing the people of Herot? The reader can plainly see that Beowulf is acting out of altruism, acting for others, not himself. Second, readers of Beowulf can see that in ancient civilizations such as Beowulf’s, the ideas of...
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