Good And Evil In Grendel, By John Gardner

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Grendel, by John Gardner, offers an alternate perspective to the infamous events of Beowulf. An insight to the mind of a ruthless monster, one that slaughters all in it 's path, with no mercy. But is it that simple? Grendel is complex, composed of layer upon layer of conflicting thoughts and emotions. However, all of the character’s actions seem to imply an evil streak, of various degrees and visibility. Gardner attempts to answer the question: are all things inherently evil, and if this is the case, then what is Grendel, the stereotypical monster that lurks in the shadows?
In the beginning of the novel, a baby bird finds itself in Grendel’s warpath. He lets the bird be, continuing on to Hrothgar’s hall, despite a mind and body consumed with animalistic rage. This proves that Grendel does not act purely on instinct; he has control over his actions even in such a mental state, and he has a conscience. His sense of right and wrong may not be up to human standards, but human standards should not be the default and always assumed to be correct or the best. However, his concept of good and evil was learned during his time spying on the Danish, and thus he knows that hurting an innocent baby bird is “wrong,” but he may not consider acts like murder to be wrong, as the Danes frequently committed murder and were glorified
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32) The groups of humans Grendel encountered were vicious, notably more so when under the influence of alcohol. They were, as some would say, downright evil. They slaughtered for no other reason than that they could, and stole, and raped, and destroyed. They speared livestock and left them to rot in the mud, wasting ridiculous amounts of resources in the process. Grendel uses this, human cruelty, particularly Hrothgar’s misdeeds, as justification for killing and eating them, “In the end, I had to eat them.” (p.

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