Grendel is described in Beowulf as the demon descended from Cain. He is envious, resentful, and angry toward mankind. Grendel preys on Hrothgar’s warriors in the king’s mead-hall, Heorot. Because Grendel’s ruthless and miserable existence he looks to avenge the humans. Grendel “the bane of the race of men roamed forth, hunting for a prey in the high hall” (Beowulf 49). Gardner seems to portray Grendel in a more of a different light as sensitive and intellectually curious. Grendel is a lonely creature that seeks an understanding of the seemingly meaningless world around him. As an outsider, Grendel observes and provides commentary on the human civilization that he battles with. In Grendel, a different side of him is shown as he is searching for the true meaning of himself and his purpose in life. Grendel is confused and he states: "All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly--blindly as all that is not myself pushes back" (Grendel 22).
Grendel fears that the qualities that he possesses are not good enough for anyone. Grendel admits that he is no nobler than any of the brainless animals, calling himself a pointless and ridiculous monster. As Grendel says "I stand there shaking from head to foot, move to the deep-sea depths of my being, like a creature thrown into audience with thunder" (Grendel 10). Grendel is saying that he is scared of himself and even his voice is like the noise of thunder that may scare someone. Grendel believes that he is an angry machine that is caught up in the lifestyle he already lives in. In a sense he fears for what he is really is. Grendel's quest for meaning is in fact the quest of anyone trying to find a fitting for his or her experiences. For instance when Grendel says "It dawned on me that the eyes that seemed to bore into my body were in fact gazing through it, wearily indifferent to my slight obstruction of the darkness" Grendel (16-17). This is showing how invisible Grendel feels, but also shows that he doesn’t have a place within the community to fit into. The human population in turn relates the fear his persona carries to the fear that burdens him by the dislocation and rejection.
Grendel is an outsider and a monster, but has a strong fascination with mankind that he explores through observation and speaking with the dragon. Grendel’s strong ambition is tested as his feelings move from fascination to obsession."All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly--blindly as all that is not myself pushes back" (Grendel 22). Grendel is in search for meaning and he finds no purpose in the changing world in which he finds himself. The toughest task for Grendel to overcome is his inability to communicate with the humans, even though they share a common language. Grendel is constantly being trapped in one-way communications, whether it’s with his babbling mother or with the numerous animals that don’t communicate that he encounters. The toughest task for Grendel to overcome is his inability to communicate with the humans, even though they share a common language. Grendel is denied any real conversation partner, so he is forced to live in endless inner conversations, with most of his significant conversations taking place within his own head. Grendel begins to question how he should live his life. Now that he separates himself from his innocent childhood with his mother to now a student of philosophy trying to find his purpose. Grendel states that “I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears” (Grendel 21). In a way he is confused on which person to be whether it is the sobbing one, the cold-hearted killer, or just the raging beast.