Good And Evil In Beowulf

Throughout Beowulf, the poet provides picturesque, almost unreal, images of

landscapes and characters to embody the theme of good versus evil. In Beowulf, the

poet utilizes imagery, as well as characters, to create a contrast between the forces of

good and evil and create conflict. The poet uses Beowulf and Grendel to embody the

forces of good and evil.

Beowulf and Grendel each have characteristics that represent either force. Since

Beowulf has many heroic characteristics, he is considered to be the work 's hero. Putz

defines a hero as, “...someone who is willing to sacrifice his life for someone and that is

what Beowulf does in every battle” (Putz 1). According to Bloom, the characteristics that

make Beowulf a hero are his strength,
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The poet reveals Grendel 's evil

nature with input that Grendel slaughters thirty men per night and selfishly causes terror

to innocent villagers (Putz 1). The characters Beowulf and Grendel are used to

represent the forces of good and evil in Beowulf.

Though it may seem light and dark are completely different than good and evil,

they are actually very similar. The poet also utilizes the forces of light and dark to show

contrast between the hero and villain. Hines states, “Light and darkness are closely

associated throughout the poem, symbolizing the forces of good and evil, heaven and

hell. Human civilization, in the form of heroic warriors, is often associated with light: the

halls are illuminated with rejoicing and treasure. Grendel 's lair is dark and gray, and he

only hunts at night, in the darkness” (Hines 1). The poet even goes as far as using the

characters and the contrast of light and dark to symbolize religious beliefs. Streissguth

believes that as a way to symbolize the past beliefs, the poet uses monsters,

particularly Grendel, to “demonize” gods (Streissguth 84-85). But the power of God
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The poet 's

use of imagery and other literary elements are critical to modern understanding of


Since Beowulf was translated, it is difficult for most readers to understand

without aid. The imagery the poet utilizes fills in the gaps

that were lost in translation. Butts states that, though the language barrier is a slight

issue, Beowulf is able to be understood because of the poet 's use of imagery to create a

mood (Butts 2-3). However, all the imagery used can become slightly confusing such

as Grendel 's mere. The confusion between the images of the sea and the lake that

surround Grendel 's mere is created to make his lair seem more terrifying (Butts 5).

The poet utilizes images to create a fantasy-like setting by way of thought and

description (Butts 3). Butts also comments on how the poet 's fascination with

“supernatural signals” aids to create the imagery used in Beowulf. “The poet 's interest in

the supernatural signals, I believe, a concurrent interest in the psychological: the

landscape which the poet has offered us with his description of Grendel 's mere is, in

effect the landscape of dreams” (Butts 115). The theme of good versus evil relates

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