Grendel – while a wretched and grotesque monstrosity in Beowulf, he evolves into something more by Gardner: a deeply emotional and intelligent creature. In the Epic poem of Beowulf he is seen as merely nothing more than a symbol of human sin and banishment from “…Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts.” (Beowulf 106-107) While on the other hand, in Grendel, he seen as something of matter and philosophical, “I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly –as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back.” (Grendel 21-22) That being said, perhaps Gardner is attempting to change Grendel from the inglorious monster which we all know and despise today –to a reasoning and thoughtful being in order to explain the complexities of life.
Mechanical Hatred: from preconceived judgment and hatred towards Grendel in Beowulf, Gardner turns the tables on the monster to show something else. For instance, how the Dane’s may have been frightened of the monstrous Grendel in Beowulf for being Cain’s descendant, the deer in Grendel was as equally as scared of him; without knowing anything about him. From this, we can now see how Grendel feels as an individual towards this unconscious hatred against his persona. They thought of Grendel as, “Malignant by nature, he never showed remorse.” (Beowulf 137) While in Gardner’s novel, we were able to see the perspective from Grendel’s view and how he felt from these, however true, preconceived notions of him. For example, when he indeed comes cross that doe in the forest it scurries away. From this, Grendel exclaims, ““Blind Prejudice!” I bawl at the splintered sunlight where half a second ago she stood. I wring my fingers, put on a long face. “Ah, the unfairness of everything,” I say, and shake my head.” (Gardner 7-8) This realization proves to one that no “delicate distinctions” (Gardner 8) can be formed when faced with Grendel. This prejudice may aid to help us in understanding, if not feel sorry for, Grendel’s out lashes to himself and humanity.
Fear: why is Grendel afraid of himself? Fright of the monstrosity within–or rather a fright of the human qualities which he posses. From his roars in the very beginning and throughout the novel, Grendel seems to always catch himself off guard and taken back by the evil lurking inside of him. For example, ““Dark Chasms!” I scream from the cliff-edge, “seize me!” Seize me to your foul black bowels and crush my bones!” I am terrified at the sound of my own huge voice in the darkness. I stand there shaking from head to foot, moved to the depths of my being….” (Grendel 10) From this, one might think that Gardner was trying to have Grendel confess his self-fear in order that, maybe in turn, he has unconsciously realized the fear that he instills in others and more notably humankind.
Purpose: I believe that there is even a deeper meaning in why Gardner chose to fully develop Beowulf’s character Grendel into something more. Maturing into a more observant being, one could always find Grendel listening, watching, and learning of humanity throughout the book. From hilltops, behind trees, to the edges of cliffs his fascination and curiosity, along with mechanics, lead him through his life. Grendel was in need of this development, this change, in order to show a different perspective over a long range of time. I believe that in order to fully understand human values and the epic poem Beowulf, Gardner believed that one had to also conceptualize and understand fully monstrous values –and maybe, just maybe, how they are one in the same.