Order Overpowers Chaos
In the epic poem Beowulf, the warrior hero Beowulf chooses to confront the tyrannical monster Grendel in his own domain, the hijacked mead hall of Heorot. A battle of brute strength ensues, in which Grendel, unable to escape his opponent’s awesome armgrip, rips away from his own arm and flees, dying soon after from bloodloss. Beowulf’s victory, though relatively early in the story, is a pivotal moment that signifies the defeat of discord and the return of civilization. Due to the stark differences in their appearances, lineages, and tactics of warfare, Grendel and Beowulf in battle symbolize the recurring conflict between chaos and order. When it comes to physical form, Grendel’s wild nature is demonstrated by his scaly, barbed, hulking figure and his razor-sharp talons, while Beowulf’s powerful human form and clothing present him as much more civil. As the Danish soldiers marvel at the monster’s severed arm, they notice that “Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike and welt on the hand of that heathen brute was like barbed steel. Everybody said there was no honed iron hard enough to pierce him through, no time-proofed blade that could cut his brutal blood-caked claw” (983-989). Their description not only refers to their unsuccessful attempts to penetrate Grendel’s flesh by blade, but it illustrates a conception of his features as a whole. The creature’s size and bodily protrusions characterize the hostile nature of Grendel, making him uncivilized to the point of being inhuman. Beowulf’s features, however, have the opposite effect. Speaking of the hero, the Danish coast guard exclaims, “‘Nor have I seen a mightier man-at-arms on this earth than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken, he is truly noble. This is no mere hanger-on in hero’s armor’” (247-251). Beowulf’s appearance and frame, although imposing, do not spark fear such as that of Grendel, but rather awe and respect. Likewise, his characteristics portray him as...
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