An Analysis of Major Characters


Despite being a man-eating monster, Grendel is a sympathetic antihero. Critics have associated Grendel with post-modern consciousness, seeking meaning in a fractured world.

As is the norm for a coming-of-age story, Grendel acts like an adolescent, struggling to understand where he fits in. He is given a wide range of human characteristics, from high intelligence to a playful sense of humor to a violent temper. Although his desire to eat humans may seem to separate him from them, humans are depicted as almost constantly at war with one another, battling in ways brutal enough to shock even Grendel. If anything, his violent nature makes him more human.

Like the archetypal adolescent, Grendel seems confused, egocentric, self-pitying, isolated, impulsive, disconnected from his mother, unsure of his philosophical beliefs, and insecure in his personal identity. It is possible that he is in this state because, apparently having eternal life, he ages extremely slowly. Either way, his near-immortality is another source of pain for him, as he seemingly can’t die of old age, and through a charm granted to him by the dragon, he also becomes immune to weapons.

Grendel does develop as a character, however, eventually struggling against what he perceives to be a meaningless universe by defining himself according to the expectations of others. At the end of the novel, it is unclear whether Grendel has truly moved on from this stance.

The Dragon

Although he appears only once, the dragon plays a central role in Grendel. He is irritable, intelligent, rude, massive, and so full of personality that he remains a likeable character.

The dragon sits on a vast pile of gold treasure in his cave, scaring Grendel as much as Grendel scares humans. His philosophical views are decidedly nihilist, apparently because his power to see the past, present, and future of everything in existence has shown him that nothing will survive the end of the universe anyway, so all endeavours are...

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Essays About Grendel