John Gardner's Grendel: Good Or Evil?

920 Words 4 Pages
Singer-songwriter Eric Burdon illustrates human nature and the universe’s constant struggle between good and evil, “Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It 's a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other.” John Gardner’s Grendel also exemplifies this conflict, and there is frequent controversy over whether Grendel is considered evil or not. Grendel is not evil; he is merely led to perform evil deeds due to his absence of self-acceptance, companionship, and communication. To begin with, one reason for Grendel’s tendency to perform harmful actions is his self-loathing. Grendel does not want to live and has no acceptance for himself; he is not at all comfortable in his own skin. …show more content…
Grendel is almost completely alone throughout his entire life. His only companion is his mother, with whom he cannot truly communicate. Everyone in the nearest civilization is terrified of him. Grendel’s description of a typical day encompasses “holding conversation with the only friend and comfort this world affords, my shadow” (Gardner 8). Grendel is so alone that he considers his shadow to be his one comfort in the world. The dilemma, however, is that no matter where Grendel goes, he will surely continue to be feared and despised. Grendel is cursed with the misfortune of being different. This misfortune is one of many causes of Grendel’s evil tendencies. Grendel even asks the stars, “Why can’t I have someone to talk to? . . . The Shaper has people to talk to, Hrothgar has people to talk to” (Gardner 53). All Grendel wants is a friend, but his wish cannot be granted. This complication is magnified when the dragon places a curse on Grendel that prohibits him from being harmed by human weapons. “Now, invulnerable, I was as solitary as one live tree in a vast landscape of coal” (75). Throughout Grendel’s life he is gradually feeling more and more isolated. This desolation is a logical cause of Grendel’s destructive …show more content…
When he is trying to speak with the “hero” Unferth, Grendel knows that he is not being completely understood. “I talked on anyway, let him get what he could” (84). Even once Unferth begins to realize that he can understand Grendel, the hero struggles to comprehend the conversation nonetheless. Perhaps if Grendel possessed the ability to speak with the civilization, his relationship with the townspeople would be different. The townspeople wholeheartedly believe the Shaper’s opinions that Grendel is a horrible monster. After the Shaper tells his story, Grendel is attacked. He enters the hall to make peace with the townspeople, but they charge at him with weapons (Gardner 51). Grendel attempts to communicate with the townspeople, but they do not listen. Grendel is forced to fight back in order to protect himself. This scene is an excellent representation of Grendel’s true personality. He is not evil, he is solely led to carry out his evil doings due to his environment. Grendel is merely cursed with this unfortunate

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