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Grendel, the Great Antagonist

By Adrian-Babiliński Jan 23, 2014 855 Words
Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf depicts Grendel as a demon, a beast. The writer makes Grendel powerful, merciless, and a source of pure evil. The author shows this while describing Grendel and by making him commit heinous acts. The narrator takes away any sign of humanity in him. This makes the God-cursed brute one of the most evil villains in literature. The attributes that the author gives Grendel describes him as one of the most chaotic antagonist. When Grendel is introduced the author uses the words, “a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark”(86). The first word to describe the demon is “powerful” which emphasizes Grendel’s strength. This is important because Beowulf must use shear god like strength to defeat this monster. After the introduction the writer sums up Grendels characteristics by saying “Grendel was the name of this grim demon”(102). The word choice in this passage shows that there is no desirable trait about him. Using the word grim shows that the demon is forbidding as a result there is nothing that will make this demonic creature happy. The reader then learns that this powerful demon is related to the first killer, Cain. Evidence of this is found when the writer says, “...he had dwelt for a time/ in misery among the banished monsters,/ Cain's clan...” (104-106). This gives the reader knowledge that he is related to pure evil ,the devil. However, the author yet again emphasize Grendels darkness with the words, “God-cursed brute”(121). Doing this periodically reminds the reader constantly that Grendel is pure darkness. Throughout the story the author describes Grendel with words like miserable, banished, and accursed showing that no matter what the demonic character does he will never stop the destruction. The reader witnesses this when Grendel continues to terrorize the people even after he destroys the Heorot. As the narrator says, “Grendel, his long and unrelenting feud/,nothing but war; how he would never parley or make peace.”(52-54). With the demon having no goal except to harm people, the reader has no doubt that the creature is evil and that happiness does not reside in him. The author also tries to diminish any human characteristic by saying, “‘...warped/ in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale bigger than any man, an unnatural birth/called Grendel by country people..’” (350-353). The text describes that the creature is only imitating man and that Grendel, at the core, is neither a man or woman. This evidence dissociate the title of man from Grendel and puts him in the category of beast. Both his characteristics and actions make this evil brute a chaotic antagonist.

It is more than characteristics that make this demon a horrid villain. As the reader is introduced to the character the reader learns that Grendel is so evil that it pains him to hear the pure story of creation. Evidence of this is found in line 86 through 88 ,“It harrowed him/ to hear the din of the loud banquet”. This text shows that anything godly and beautiful makes Grendel feel pain. The God-cursed demon responds to this by waging war on the people. His actions are described as merciless by the author. Grendel is such a villain that before Beowulf goes to battle with him he states, “‘If Grendel wins, it will be a gruesome day... ’”(442). This states that if Beowulf fails there is no hope for the people. Doing this portrays Grendel as almost godly and that no natural strength will ever be able to defeat him. This trait is also shown before the final battle when the narrator tells the readers, “his lonely war,/ inflicting constant cruelties on the people,/ atrocious hurt. He took over Heorot,” (165-168). Doing this shows that Grendel succeeded at his task of destroying the happiness and beauty that made him suffer. This evidence concurs that the demon is a powerful and successful antagonist. To have Hrothgar say, “‘It bothers me to have to burden anyone/ with all the grief Grendel has caused/ and the havoc he has wreaked upon us in Heorot, our humiliations. ’”(475-477) shows that Grendel had caused numerous amounts of fear and grief. Hrothgar saying that he is humiliated shows that he has a view of small importance of himself. This is ironic because Hrothgar is the king of his people and to see himself this way means that Grendel has driven him into a state of worthlessness. Grendel creating so much havoc and successfully destroying a kingdom makes him a great villain.

Grendel ‘s characteristics and actions make this demon a force to be reckoned with. Using descriptive words the narrator, as well as the characters in the story, tell the reader that this in a great demonic power that no average man can stop. Grendel’s action show his power as well as his evil intentions. This all builds up to show that Grendel is one of the few antagonist that succeed at achieving their goal. Even though Grendel is not actively in the story for long, the writer makes sure that the reader knows that he is the darkest and most evil creature.

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