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Hero and Beowulf

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British Literature
9/28/13
Beowulf vs. Batman The model hero owns power, ethics; and, above all, fights evil. This definition was functional in the time of Beowulf and still is functional in today’s time only slightly altered. Due to the use of such inventions such as television and internet, our culture has come to value physical desirability and sensual feelings, as evident in the example of Batman, a 21st century hero. In addition, humility has become a desired value in modern times, whereas self-assurance to the point of overconfidence was a favorable quality in Beowulf’s time. Batman and Beowulf are both exemplary figures in their time and they both complete various adventures, but the difference is that Batman completes these adventures for his community; Beowulf does it for his legacy.
Beowulf’s arrogant attitude is something that in our culture we do not look up to or condone with our heroes. In the beginning of the story Beowulf boast on how the community had seen him bolstered in the blood of enemies when he battled and bound five beasts (Beowulf 419). In our society today we really do not enjoy when our modern day heroes boast and brag about their accomplishments. Doing this takes credit away from the actions the hero has already committed. In modern society today our community prefers for our heroes to be humble and respectful, not cocky and over confident. Batman was not an individual who wanted all the credit of being a super-hero, but he generally took pride to help people. Batman already had riches granted to him by his dad and used them to people’s aid. But with everything Batman did he had to keep it a secret, so he was always alone in life. He never had followers except for his sidekick Robin.
Beowulf always needed followers with him and was always concerned about his reputation. For Beowulf it wasn’t enough just to kill Grendel, but he had to do it without any weapons and in style. He states “I have heard moreover that the monster scorns in his reckless way to use weapons: therefore, to heighten Hygelac’s fame and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield, the heavy war-broad: hand to hand is how it will be, a life and death fight with the fiend” (433-440). For one to vaunt on how he will do a task or mission is not common in our society today. Heroes today have more of a “by any means” approach meaning to just get the job done. I cannot recall Batman detailing how he would defeat the Joker or any other of his arch enemies he just went out there and did it. He never stated that he wanted to avenge his father’s name, he could have, but he did not because he genuinely wanted to assist people.
In the Anglo-Saxon period too much of people’s pride and worry was bout their reputation and how they would die and how people will remember them. In our world today we live a life more of trying to please ourselves more than anything. People in todays’ society can be disloyal to their families just to make themselves happy or satisfied. I recall my cousin going to a community college over his father and mother’s will because he wanted to pursue another career. In the Anglo-Saxon period though this would not be acceptable, I say this because people in this era morals were more family oriented. Also they focused more on their legacies than making themselves happy. When Beowulf became severely hurt by the dragon in the end of the poem his biggest concern was dying with the dragon’s treasure. He states at the end that “Away you go: I want to examine that ancient gold, gaze my fill on those garnered jewels; my going will be easier for having seen the treasure, a less troubled letting-go of the life and lordship I have long maintained” (2747-2752). Again even on his death bed Beowulf was still concerned about his legacy or how people will remember him or even treasures and valuables instead of being more concerned about living or his family. Batman in the movie “Batman Forever” when he got shot and was going to die he told his butler to inherent his valuables and riches if he did die. That is the biggest alteration of heroes between that period and the period we have today. I believe when people die they will reflect on the things, and people they care about the most. In Beowulf’s case he cared the most about dying with treasures, and being remembered as an incredible warrior. To me this is Beowulf‘s tragic flaw his hubris and longing to be eternaly glorious to his fellow kinsmen and lust to be the greatest is eventually what kills him. Ironically this is what made Beowulf who he was in the first place.
What makes Batman live forever is that he knew he wouldn’t be able to be a hero forever. The true story is that he passed down his knowledge to his sidekick Robin when he becomes older and Robin is supposed to carry that torch. We as a society do not focus on that though; we focus more on Batman’s adventures in his prime because of the type of hero he was. Batman heroism was strictly business he didn’t feed into his name being in the newspaper or being Gotham city’s savior. He just wanted to save people, because it was the right thing to do and he had the powers to do so. The reason I conclude Beowulf will not live forever in our society is because I feel like he chose heroism, and I feel like for a hero to be genuine the heroism has to choose them. Of course he will not be remembered because in Beowulf’s time we did not have the media, movies, and comic books we have today, but if Batman had the same morals as Beowulf I’m not too certain that we would accept Batman the same way we do now.
I cannot say the exact reason why Beowulf became a hero, but from what the poem tells the reader he embraced the fame and all the accolades he did. I don’t even think society today would consider Beowulf a hero because of his lack of humbleness. Almost every hero in the 21st century has a humble quality to them. This make them last because the average civilian can still relate to them. Beowulf made it clear that nobody could relate to him. He proclaims in the beginning of the poem to Unferth that “ The fact is if you were truly as keen or courageous as you claim to be Grendel would never have got away such unchecked atrocity, attacks on your king, havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere”(590-594). Even though what Beowulf says is absolutely true, heroes in this time period would not have said anything like that. A modern day hero would have ignored the statement or would not have let the statement inconvenience them as it did to Beowulf. The reason Beowulf felt like he needed to address the issue was because Unferth tried to dishonor him in public, and that could possibly hinder Beowulf’s legacy. Beowulf felt the need to belittle Unferth to show he was the more dominating figure. A modern day hero like Batman would never do such a thing to a regular civilian. Unferth was not displayed as a villain in the poem, so the fact that Beowulf believed that his behavior is acceptable would in modern day discredit him from his hero-like actions.
Beowulf’s morals and ethics is what separates him from our civilization today. People in today’s age do have behaviors similar to Beowulf’s, but not anyone that is praised as a hero. Beowulf’s lack of humbleness and nobility in modern time just makes a man of great power. Not all men of power are heroes though. Batman is a true hero because his morals were not based on him, but based on the care and need of the city. Batman never expected any treasure or any valuables in return, instead he would give up the valuables he had to the ones he loved as he did in the movie. The Anglo-Saxon period was more about living for one’s legacy no matter what. As long as one is remembered as great it is acceptable. Today however if one is to be themselves as genuine as they can they will never be forgotten. If people with power humble themselves to the point where average civilians can relate, and be on the same level as them they will always be remembered. I say this because at the end of the day if one is a hero the ones that will remember him or her are the regular ordinary citizens. Beowulf might be remembered as one of the best works for Anglo-Saxon literature, but Batman will always be remembered.

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