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Beowulf Grendel Essay Research Paper John Gardner

Beowulf: Grendel Essay, Research Paper John Gardner introduces the reader of Grendel to an intimate side of Unferth unseen in the epic poem Beowulf. In Grendel

Beowulf: Grendel Essay, Research Paper

John Gardner introduces the reader of Grendel

to an intimate side of Unferth unseen in the epic poem Beowulf. In Grendel

we behold what a pathetic, sniveling wimp Unferth has become. In Beowulf

all that we see is a jealous bastard. Why did Gardner make the character

of Unferth so different from the original depiction? He didn?t. The only

change in Unferth from Beowulf to Grendel is his realistic characterization

in Grendel.

After the drunken Danes give Beowulf his

warm welcome, Unferth unleashes his anger in an attack on Beowulf. This

petty proclamation which points out Beowulf?s not- so triumphant swimming

contest with Brecca, shows the reader (or listener) that Unferth is nothing

more than a spineless bastard. In Grendel we find that Unferth?s bitterness

is well founded. John Gardner shows Unferth as the most pathetic man to

ever call himself a hero. Unferth is degraded once in the apple battle

(he was beat by flying fruit for god?s sake!!!) and then again in the cave.

In the cave Unferth begs Grendel to take his life but Grendel gives him

fate worse than death. Grendel leaves him alive and impotent. Unferth knows

that he cannot kill Grendel yet he cannot be a martyr to Herot either.

All during the first year of Grendel?s

siege, the smell of apples fresh in the air, Unferth tries to be the Grendel?s

martyr. Oh the heroic Unferth who died trying to save the people of Herot.

Unfortunately he never got to die, not even dressed up as a goat, a pig

or an elderly women. This continuing life of impotence lead Unferth to

an immense sense of bitterness. Poor Unferth to be at a beast?s mercy for

twelve years only to have Beowulf disembowel Grendel in one night.

On the beach as Beowulf is about detach

mama?s head from her body, Unferth gives Beowulf his sword in a touching

moment of peace between Beowulf and Unferth.

Well that is not quite right. This touching

moment is Unferth?s last attempt at contributing to his beloved Herot.

If he can?t kill the beast at least his sword can. Unferth is reaching

for martyrdom. Unferth never redeems himself as a hero no matter how unselfish

or heroic he was as he handed over his beloved sword. Unferth would never

be a hero again. His one chance of “inner heroism” was gone when Grendel

refused take his life in the cave.

Unferth is the same man in both novels,

there is no doubt about that. The strands of similarity are to thick to

ignore. He is dying to be a martyr in both Grendel and Beowulf. The only

difference between Grendel?s Unferth and Beowulf?s Unferth is the detail

and depth to which his character is taken. John Gardner brought a relatively

small character from Beowulf , and made him the second most defined character

in Grendel.

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