Role of the Poet in John Gardiner's Grendel

Topics: Art, Emotion, Profanity Pages: 4 (1376 words) Published: June 3, 2012
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George F. Walker once wrote, “Emotion is apt to be mistaken for weakness and weakness is an invitation to manipulate.” (Walker, 38). Likewise, the Shaper is able to bring out intense emotions in the Danes through his art and use those emotions to manipulate them into constructing a common, coherent, and uplifting value system. Having seen the past that the Shaper glorified, Grendel is horrified by sheer power of the Shaper’s poetry and feels weak when he realizes that he too is being manipulated into believing the Shaper’s lies. When Grendel first hears the Shaper’s song, he is so overcome with emotion that he bursts into tears, momentarily loses his ability to speak and could not help but flee, “thus I fled, ridiculous hairy creature torn apart by poetry—crawling, whimpering, streaming tears, across the world like a two-headed beast, like mixed-up lamb and kid at the tail of a baffled, indifferent ewe—and I gnashed my teeth and clutched the sides of my head as if to heal the split, but I couldn’t.” (Gardner, 44). Because of the Shaper, Grendel is split between his stone cold rationality and his newfound confusing web of emotions and attachment to art. The Shaper’s ability to transform Grendel from a self-conscious, articulate creature, into a primal, emotional and childlike monster is a vivid example of how powerful the Shaper really is. Even though Grendel knows that the value system the Shaper has created is based on exaggerations and lies, he sees the pride, peace, and beauty brought forth by it. He understands that in the end, these morals and ethics won’t mean anything, but cannot ignore the bliss that the humans experience since they simply believe what they are told and do not raise questions. The power of art is displayed through the character of the Shaper whose visions both seduce and confuse Grendel. “Grendel is seduced by the Shaper: he wants to be a part of that vision. Unfortunately, he can’t get in because he is a monster.”...

Cited: Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.
Gardner, John, and Allan Richard Chavkin. Conversations with John Gardner. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 1990. Print.
Walker, George F. Somewhere Else: Four Plays. Burnaby, B.C.: Talon, 1998. Print.
Works Consulted
"John Gardner (novelist)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.
Stromme, Craig J. "The Twelve Chapters of Grendel." The Twelve Chapters of Grendel. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.
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