Grendel Essay, Research Paper
It is uncanny how often a wild animal will display human qualities. For example, a bird defending its nest from predators could be observed as an act of love towards the chicks, or a bear protecting its cubs as a feeling of obligation towards the safety of the new generation of bears. In Grendel this idea is reoccurs more than once as the monster often acts more human than monster while at other times his animal instincts are predominate. Many times Grendel seems to be walking a fine line between the two. It seems that throughout the book these two sides of Grendel are in a constant battle each prevailing at different times. When his more human side is shown, Grendel displays such human qualities such as hatred and loneliness while at other times he displays some of his more animalistic traits such as blood lust.
In the book the monster displays the human characteristic of hatred on more than one occasion. At one point in the novel Grendel is furious with Wealtheow:
I would kill her and teach them reality. Grendel the truth-teacher, phantasm-
tester! It was what I would be from this day forward-my commitment, my
character as long as I lived-and nothing alive or dead could change my mind!
In this quote Grendel is expressing his need to kill Wealtheow to teach the Danes that reality is not ideal but in actuality he displays his feelings of hatred for her because she represents everything Grendel can+t have. Throughout this chapter Grendel speaks of his infatuation with Wealtheow and how her perfect looks and her always kind manner constantly tease him. This is because Grendel thinks that Wealtheow is beautiful and basically has a |thingX for her but because they are from two different worlds he could never be with her so having her perfect image always in his mind is torture for him.
Despite this hatred expressed towards Wealtheow and his determination in killing her, Grendel decides not to kill the queen of the Danes after all. He describes the act as being meaningless but this could be another human trait not previously mentioned. This could be a compassionate side of Grendel sowing itself because Grendel has feelings for Wealtheow so it would not allow him to kill her.
Another occasion in which Grendel displays the feeling of hatred is when he speaks of the Shaper and what he does to the Danes:
I no longer remember exactly what he sang. I only know that it had a strange
effect on me: It no longer filled me with doubt and distress, loneliness, shame. It
enraged me. It was their confidence, maybe-their blissful, swinish ignorance,
their bumptious self-satisfaction, and, worst of all, their hope. (77)
Here Grendel is showing that the Shaper+s tales no longer make him feel terrible about himself but instead enrage him. Grendel+s hatred for the Shaper runs deep because he feels that his fraudulent tales of triumph and heroism inspire the Danes and give them confidence and hope. These feelings in turn lead to companionship and unity which again are things that represent what Grendel could never have or be a part of. He feels that he has been cursed and would never be accepted so he hates the Shaper and all humans for being able to experience these feelings that are almost alien to Grendel.
Another human trait that Grendel displays during the course of the plot is one that is probably very unfamiliar to most people; loneliness. This idea is first shown when Grendel begins to listen to the harper talk about the race that God had cursed:
I staggered out into the open and up toward the hall with my burden, groaning
out, |Mercy! Peace!X The harper broke off, the people screamed. Drunken men
rushed at me with battle-axes. I sank to my knees, crying, |Friend! Friend!X
This event is showing that Grendel had been convinced by the mysterious harper that he was a cursed race condemned to a life of solitude. After hearing this Grendel finally makes that realization himself and breaks down, while stumbling out toward the meadhall in want of real companionship. Before this break down of emotions Grendel speaks of how he believes the tale of the harper and how he believes that he has been cursed by God and this is the realization that leads to his actions. Although Grendel is considered a primitive beast the chain of events that lead up to his eventual break down further prove the fact that Grendel has feelings much like a human would.
Another instance in which Grendel travels through the empty void of loneliness is when he becomes trapped in the tree with no escape possible for him: |Poor Grendel will hang here and starve to death,X I told myself, |and no one will ever even miss me (Pg. 18)!X Here Grendel is panicking because his foot has become stuck in a tree and he has a severe gash. This could be one of the best instances of loneliness throughout the novel because it occurs a a very dramatic time. First of all, this is the first time that Grendel had every experienced the true feeling of being alone without any one around which in itself is a very traumatic experience. Also he realizes that there is no one around to rescue him and he believes he is going to die. A person knowing, or, at least assuming to know that they are going to die alone is one of the loneliest feelings that a person could have. Grendel having these feelings shows for one of the first times that he possesses some major human qualities and in this case he displays the emotion of loneliness.
In many instances throughout the book Grendel displays human emotions but in some cases his more primal characteristics such as bloodlust are predominate. This idea can be found in the last chapter of the book when Grendel bursts into the meadhall in search of sleeping thanes to devour: |Swiftly, softly,I will move from bed to bed and destroy them all, swallow every last man. I am blazing,half-crazy with joy (Pg.168).X In this quote and during this scene Grendel+s instincts take over as he explains how his need for human flesh control him and drive him to this crazed state.
this is one of those times in which his more articulate, emotional side is masked by his primal instincts. This proves that Grendel, despite having an almost human side to his personality, cannot escape that which he is at heart, a beast.
Throughout the book, Grendel displays many traits that would lead the reader to believe that he is almost human. On the other hand he still seems unable to escape that which he is at heart; a beast. Some human qualities that he possesses are hatred and loneliness but still he cannot hold back his more animal traits like bloodlust. Grendel+s personality is a hybrid of mixed human emotions and animal instincts and interspersed throughout every page is an almost elegant balance between the two. Sometimes he lets out his feelings of hatred when he talks of his secret love, Wealtheow. Other times his loneliness gets the best of him when he thinks about the Danes becoming more and more unified through every line the Shaper articulates. But even his most primal instincts cannot be suppressed when his craving for flesh is strong. Overall, the novel portrays Grendel as a monster walking the thin red line between human emotions and primal instincts. Every so often he will slip into either category but eventually finds that balance again.