John Gardner's Grendel: The Good Monster

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Grendel: The Good Monster
Could a monster truly be good? And could that very same monster have the ability to make humans sympathize it? Well, these and many more questions are asked of John Gardner’s main character in his novel Grendel. This book tells the story of a monster named Grendel, who originates from Anglo-Saxon tales and features in the popular poem Beowulf. Gardner tells the familiar story of Beowulf but through the perspective of the tale’s main monster, Grendel. At first glance, a reader can confidently state that Grendel is evil and corrupt but, by giving readers both Grendel 's point of view and his thoughts, Gardener shows that Grendel is not that evil after all. With thorough observation and deeper analysis of the book, one
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These can help the reader to see that Grendel is good and help show connections between Grendel and humanity. Although, he is described as a descendent of Cain, a main devilish icon in many religions, and he easily annihilates and devours people, he is quite human. At first look, both these features portray Grendel as an evil force and these can push readers to quickly characterize him as a big, bad monster. But, Grendel has a deeper, brighter side in which he is not any more evil than the humans are and at times, he can even be seen as more admirable than humanity. Humans can often be villainous in this book. One example is how they treat Grendel when the two sides meet each other. Due to a communication error, the humans were spooked by the monster and right away, they resulted to violence. Grendel says that “the king snatched an ax from the man beside him and, without any warning, he hurled it at me” (27, Gardner). This scene describes the rashness by which the humans acted and poor Grendel had no intention of harming them. The humans are portrayed as the villains and Grendel is only the victim of their cruelty. Furthermore, when Grendel fights Beowulf, it is not the monster who is interpreted as scary, it is the human. Beowulf “smashes (Grendel) against (the wall)” and then precedes to “break open (Grendel’s forehead)” (171). All the while Beowulf madly taunts Grendel and …show more content…
These support the case that he is not evil. Throughout the book, Grendel challenges the meaning behind life. At first, Grendel questions the world and e comes to decide that “the world was nothing” (21, Gardner). It “is all a pointless accident” (28). He means that the world is meaningless and that it nothing mattered. But, midway through the book, Grendel is faced with a very wise dragon who gives Grendel a new outlook on life. The dragon tells Grendel that he “improve(s) (the humans)” and he goes on to say that Grendel “stimulate(s) them” and “make(s) them think and scheme” (72). By this, the dragon means that Grendel 's purpose is to kill and frighten the humans so that they can act as better, well, humans. And by killing the humans, he prevents them from killing each other, creates a bond between them, and allows them to create a purpose in their lives. Grendel embraces these ideas and for much of the book, his motives are to make the humans “better”. Grendel switches his beliefs from the world being pointless to him being the driving force behind mankind and a lot of their decisions because as Jay Ruud puts it, “it is at least better to adopt a role to play in society than to do nothing” (17, Ruud). This creates a purpose in Grendel’s life which is also what all humans try to do. So, Grendel is further humanized. Grendel believes that he exists not to destroy the humans, but to improve them. He fully

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