Alienation In Grendel

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Stories have never existed in a void, where everything exists only as a story begins and ends. As far back as Ancient Greece, characters and settings were understood to continue existing past the events of a written work, within their own fictional “universe.” Greek Gods like Zeus or Hades, and heroes like Heracles and Odysseus would recur in multiple different pieces written by various authors, building upon other authors’ creations to expand the worlds these stories produced when strung together. This cooperative world-building was accomplished by offering up diverse perspectives on the same events, fleshing out the fictitious people and places involved to paint a developed, three dimensional image of an alternate realm. The classic …show more content…
Gardner plays with the themes of alienation and detachment in Grendel to great effect, reaching out to an audience that can identify with those ideas on a universal level. There is an intentional emotional appeal on Gardner’s part here; he purposely puts the reader into Grendel’s head, and harps on the fact that many readers will empathize with that struggle against a hostile world, particularly younger (teenaged) ones. In fact, from the very start of the novel, Gardner ensures that the audience is aware that Grendel is nothing more than lost and alone, and continues to develop the character with an essential sympathy for human nature and a yearning for interaction with them. Grendel fiercely wants to believe in the Shaper’s stories, despite being antagonized by the humans, and is even disappointed when Unferth fails to display the humans’ often preached of heroic ideals, expressing, “So much for heroism. So much for the harvest-virgin. So much, also, for the alternative visions of blind old poets and dragons…” (Gardner 90). It is far from a portrayal of a creature who is evil for evil’s sake. Gardner shows that Grendel is a conflicted, complex, and nuanced being, whose motivations are steeped in empathetic emotions. Because of that, Farrell compares Gardner’s Grendel to characters like Holden Caulfield; a pop culture symbol for rebellion and societal misfits (Farrell). Anyone who has ever been young and felt alone can connect to an extent to the strife of both characters. Neither are heroes in the traditional sense, as Holden never saves anyone or anything and Grendel kills and eats innocent people, but they are champions of the outcast. The Danes in Grendel represent the society that brings these relatable outcasts down, which makes Grendel still someone to root for in spite of everything; an anti-hero. The tragedy of Grendel as portrayed by Gardner is how Grendel tries and tries

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