Gardner's Grendel and Existentialism

Topics: Existentialism, Meaning of life, KILL Pages: 2 (768 words) Published: April 30, 2011
Gardner chose to display the philosophical idea of existentialism in his novel, Grendel. Grendel, the main character, shows proof of supporting these ideas. Existentialism related to the basic idea of individualism, in which each individual is an isolated being too which is cast into an alien universe. In this literary theory, it is believed that the world possesses no inherent human truth, value or meaning. Existentialists believe that there is no god and no heaven, and Gardner uses this belief in his novel “They sense that, of course, from time to time; have uneasy feelings that all they live by is nonsense. They have dim apprehensions that such propositions as ‘God does not exist’ are somewhat dubious at least in comparison with statements like ‘All carnivorous cows eat meat.’” (pg 64-65)
Observing from a different viewpoint, this realm of thought gives individuals freedom to do as they please, without possessing any external pressures. In a world without sense, all choices are possible. One has the freedom to make each decision based on one’s own personal code of ethics and commitment to one’s self, as opposed to being swayed by societal pressures or religious beliefs. This principle gives people sovereignty; it makes people happy knowing they have no responsibilities in life.

Grendel views the world as an open space of “nothingness” to which he entered, to which the nothingness where it must end. He comes to the realization that his own, along with every other individuals existence is merely just a flash in time, "in a billion billion billion years, everything will have come and gone several times, in various forms" (page70). He possesses the belief that all men are mechanical. He is given the opportunity to observe and study them, introducing him to the idea of conformity, with the desire that he too can find meaning in this world.

At the beginning of the novel Grendel demonstrates pure innocence. With the story of his first encounter...
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