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Grendel's Struggle Between Good and Evil

In: English and Literature

Submitted By br1tw3h
Words 1439
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Throughout much of the novel Grendel, Grendel faces a defining struggle- that between good and evil. He spends much of his years attempting to discover, and even fight his destiny. Grendel starts out the same as all humans, innocent and curious. He spent his childhood alone, his mother being the only creature that would keep him company. Grendel repeatedly tries to communicate with the humans. As he becomes older and wiser, he starts to realize that he won’t ever be able to get the Scyldings to see eye to eye with him. They would always see him as a disgusting, terrible monster. Eventually, Grendel is able to embrace this and fulfill his destiny as the Destroyer and Wrecker of Kings. At first, Grendel is a young, naïve creature, exploring the world around him just as young things do. He is not yet aware of his evil destiny; he is just lonely. During his first interaction with the Scyldings, Grendel is stuck in a tree, dying. The men discover him, and decide that he is hungry for pig. They are unsure if he is friendly or not: “‘Pig!’ I tried to yell. It scared them… the king snatched an ax from the man beside him and, without any warning, he hurled it at me” (27). The humans attacked until Grendel’s mother saved him, and Grendel came to a horrible realization “‘The world resists me and I resist the world… That’s all there is…I exist, nothing else’” (28). At this point, Grendel is starting to view the world very differently, and is discovering how the other creatures on Earth view him. He now understands how dangerous the humans are, but has still not given up on the prospect of being good. He continues to observe the humans, and is at one point swept away by the Shaper’s song: “My heart was light with Hrothgar’s goodness, and leaden with grief at my own bloodthirsty ways” (48). The Scylding’s king, Hrothgar, along with the Shaper, fascinate Grendel. He is aware of the lies the Shaper sings, but is still deeply affected by them, and becomes very confused: “He told of an ancient feud between two brothers which split all the world between darkness and light. And I, Grendel, was the dark side…The terrible race God cursed. I believed him” (51). This fills Grendel with sorrow, and he goes into the meadhall to try to make peace with the Scyldings: “I sank to my knees, crying ‘Friend! Friend!’ They hacked at me, yipping like dogs…I understood…that they could kill me- eventually would if I gave them a chance” (52). Now that Grendel knows of the evil role assigned to him by the Shaper, he is becoming increasingly conflicted about himself. Deep down, he is discovering what will eventually become of him. Despite the fact that Grendel knows that the Shaper’s words are wrought with fiction, he begins to assign himself a savage purpose in life. At this point, Grendel was feeling lonely as ever, asking “‘why can’t I have someone to talk to?... The Shaper has people to talk to…Hrothgar has people to talk to’” (53). Motivated by his discoveries, confusion, and desperation, Grendel stumbles upon the all-knowing dragon in order to learn more about himself and his destiny. He is becoming more and more entangled in his internal struggle between good and evil. Upon realizing how the humans felt when they saw him, Grendel thought it best to stay clear of them: “It was one thing to eat one from time to time- that was only natural…but it was another thing to scare them, give them heart attacks, fill their nights with nightmares, just for sport” (60-61). It is clear that at the beginning of his visit with the dragon, Grendel is still leaning towards attempting to be a good creature. He does not yet wish to be a destroyer of the Scyldings. However, as the encounter continued, the dragon shared a valuable piece of information: “‘You improve them, my boy…You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme…You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves’” (72-73). These words cause Grendel to really begin questioning himself: “I was sure he was lying. Or anyway half-sure. Flattering me into tormenting them because he, in his sullen hole, loved visciousness” (73). Regardless, he stubbornly refused to be this so-called brute existence. Grendel did not know it at the time, but the dragon had changed him. He soon realized this: “I discovered that the dragon had put a charm on me: no weapon could cut me. I could walk up to the meadhall whenever I please, and they were powerless” (75-76). This charm took effect when a guard attempted to attack Grendel. He began to laugh grimly, and then performed the evil act of biting the guard’s head off: “I fled with the body to the woods, heart churning- boiling like a flooded ditch- with glee” (79). A few nights later, Grendel joyfully launched his first raid. He was finally beginning to abandon his good side to fulfill and embrace his evil fate. As a result of this epiphany, Grendel performed terrible acts of murder, but at this point was filled with joy: “I was transformed…I had become, myself, the mama I’d searched the cliffs for once in vain…I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone” (80). While Grendel’s new powers bring him glory, he realizes that his invincibility separates him from everyone else in the world more than ever before. While he is enjoying his evil acts, he feels more hopeless than ever in the prospect of seeking a place in the world of humanity. Grendel is still slightly reluctant about being evil, knowing that it will only bring him loneliness. Grendel continues to raid the Scyldings, and it even becomes a sort of game for him: “I could finish them off in a single night…yet I hold back…Form is function. What will we call the Hrothgar-Wrecker when Hrothgar has been wrecked?” (91). His struggle has nearly ended at this point, for he has recognized his destiny to be the one to bring about an end to the king. At this point, Grendel has completed his transformation from good to evil: “‘It is I,’ I say. ‘The Destroyer’” (130). He had even become so bored that he liked to kill humans and other creatures purely for his own entertainment. However, this is not enough to keep Grendel satisfied. When Beowulf and his men arrive, the forces of good that will provide the challenge Grendel craves finally confront him. He becomes excited upon seeing them: “I am mad with joy…Strangers have come, and it’s a whole new game… O happy Grendel! Fifteen glorious heroes, proud in their battle dress, fat as cows!” (151). He could sense how powerful Beowulf was: “He was dangerous. And yet I was excited, suddenly alive… his mouth…moved- or so it seemed to me-independent of the words, as if the body of the stranger were a ruse, a disguise for something infinitely more terrible” (155). Even though he knew he could lose to Beowulf, he became extremely excited for the challenge. That night, he raided the meadhall where Beowulf awaited him. Grendel accepted his fate of evil, and was prepared to die. He dreadfully loses the battle and dies in a deep, dark, evil pit as his enemies, the animals, watch him with enjoyment: “They watch on, evil, incredibly stupid, enjoying my destruction. ‘Poor Grendel’s had an accident,’ I whisper. ‘So may you all’” (174). After these last hateful words are said, Grendel’s long, evil life finally comes to an end. As hard as he tried, Grendel was not able to overcome the forces of evil within him to be good. After first being assaulted by the Scyldings, then consulting with the dragon, Grendel knew that there was no escape from his evil destiny. As much as he did not want to spend eternity alone, he slowly embraced his fate. He started making fools of humans and killing them for fun. More and more goodness left him as his life progressed. Grendel knew that it was his business to kill and be evil just as it was the king’s business to rule. Soon, the Scyldings weren’t quite fun enough for him anymore. When Beowulf finally arrived, Grendel could not resist the challenge, and finally met his end in the most evil of places.…...

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