Thursday, February 10, 2011

Prompt 2

Throughout the story Beowulf, the character of Grendel is a very static character. He is described as a monstrous beast who is set only on destroying the nation of the Danes. Grendel is simply described as wanting to break into Hrothgar’s hall and destroying all who reside in it. This is very understandable because in Beowulf Grendel is a descendant of Cain who dilled his brother out of jealousy. This description is entirely different from the description of Grendel in the story Grendel. Grendel is a very dynamic character in john Gardner’s book Grendel.

In the story Grendel, Grendel is described as a human-like being. Even though Grendel is unable to communicate with humans he has a mild understanding of the world around him. In this world Grendel believes that it is entirely mechanical. Grendel believes that he is a machine just as the world around him is a machine. Grendel is forms this belief because he is unable to control his impulses which are geared towards destruction.

At the beginning of the story, Grendel is cut off from the human race and he lives alone with his mother in the bottom of a lake. Grendel’s belief that he is a machine is soon discredited when he meets the human beings. He is fascinated with the way they act. The humans do not understand Grendel and so they label him as a threat to them.

When Grendel makes his way to Hrothgar’s hall he is enraged by what is going on there but he continues to come back. This both confirms and disproves his theory of the world as a machine. I believe that Grendel is not a machine because he does know what he likes to do. Although he cannot force himself to leave the hall, he does enjoy what is going on there.

Grendel is introduced to the “Shaper” theory as he is listening to the things being talked about in the hall. This is where I believe that Grendel realizes that he is not a machine and that he does have the ability to make his own choices. Grendel is interested in the dream that is being discussed by he Danes in the hall. Grendel also realizes that in order for the dream to come true he would have to become the villain of the story. Although Grendel does not want to become the villain he realizes that this is the only way that that dream can come true.

Gardner describes Grendel as a dynamic character who goes through many stages during the story. His beliefs at the outset of the story are drastically different from his beliefs at the end of the story. The changes that Grendel goes through shape his character and make him the monster that he becomes in the story. Grendel’s loneliness leads him down the path that he chooses.

In Gardner’s story, we see a side that illuminates many thoughts that might have been present after reading Beowulf. It is impossible to understand exactly what kind of monster Grendel is in Beowulf. In Gardner’s version we get a description of Grendel’s thoughts and beliefs. These beliefs allow us to see the influences that make Grendel into the villain that he is actually portrayed in both stories.

Although both stories have the same end for Grendel, there are differing views that are revealed in each version. In Beowulf we are simply given the view that Grendel is a monster who is simply set on the destruction of the Danes for the simple reason that that is what he is programmed to do. In Gardner’s story Grendel is given a conscience and the ability to make his own decisions. In the end his decision is the same but it is the process of making that decision which is the important factor in the story. Gardner gives us the view that Grendel is not programmed as a monster, instead he decides to be a monster in order to make the “Shaper’s theory” a reality


  1. There is a great core here: your understanding that the fundamental change in Grendel's character is from being static to being dynamic. That's a good start. The way to do something with an idea like this, rather than just state it, is both to prove it, and to draw conclusions from it. You make gestures in each direction, but don't really do either as well as you could.

    So: how do you prove that you're right about static vs. dynamic? You need to deal with, e.g., the Shaper or the mechanical theory, and show how one of those shows Grendel as being dynamic - this is a complicated subject, but for your discussion of either one to be relevant, that's what you need to do.

    Then, how do you draw a conclusion from this discussion? Well, one way would be to ask and answer the question: "what is the nature, or direction, of Grendel's dynamism?"

    In short: good premise, and you have some of the material for an effective execution of it but lots of details need(ed) to be worked out.

  2. I really liked what you said in here. You had a great understanding of Grendel's character in both books and saw how important the changes Gardner made were. It might be interesting in a revision to try and prove that Grendel is a tragic hero. You would be able to make the argument about proving the Shaper's theory a little stronger and give the reader an even better idea of Grendel's character. I like what you did here. Hopefully you can go further.