Grendel Essay, Research Paper
We’re back to the question of the tree in the forest… Does it make a sound if no one is around to hear it? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Would Beowulf and the Dragon have existed if Grendel had never met them? Yes and no, in a sense. The monistic theory would hold that they would have. But of course! Just because I don’t know a Bob Johnson, doesn’t mean that he does not exist. Or at least that’s the monistic view–that there is only one kind of substance, only one reality; the only thing that varies is our awareness of this reality. But what is reality? It’s what I see, what I feel, what I experience–before I interpret it. So if I never meet a Bob Johnson, he won’t exist–won’t be a reality. This is the dualistic theory–that the world is divided into two mutually irreducible elements–reality, and what we experience as reality. As Grendel says on page 28, “I exist, nothing else.” And it is true. The people we meet, the sensations we experience, are nothing but a memory, an impression on our mind from a moment ago. We observe and take in information, but what we don’t know (or what we don’t know that we don’t know) will never exist for us. So the dragon and Beowulf would have never existed had Grendel not met them. At least not as far as his reality is concerned. But he met them. He talked to the dragon who changed everything and nothing at the same time (isn’t dualism just full of paradoxes?) He met Beowulf and who smashed his head into a wall. They existed all right. They were entities. But it’s not as simple as it seems. They existed, but it was Grendel’s mind who gave them their true identity. The dragon, for all the reader knows, may have been an over-sized psych patient. Beowulf may have been just another pompous human. It was Grendel’s mind that created the wise, all-knowing mystical creature and the clever human who was finally able to defeat him. Once reality is presented to us, we can make of it what we wish. Grendel wanted to find his purpose, wanted to be taught, therefore he listened to the dragon and interpreted him as a wise creature. From the first time he saw Beowulf, he knew that the warrior would defeat him–he feared the human, which indicates that on a subconscious level, Grendel probably wanted to be defeated–maybe because he was getting tired of the certainty of his victories over Hrothgar and his people. Beowulf was no different from any other human, but Grendel’s mind made him so. His visions of Beowulf with wings and spitting out fire support this idea–Grendel takes the reality presented to him (in this case, probably just another self-assured warrior), and he interprets it according to his previous knowledge (here the wings and fire are borrowed from the dragon.) His comment about his defeat–that it was merely an accident–is true. It was an accident in the sense that his mindset was such to predispose him to fear Beowulf. So do the dragon and Beowulf exist? I’d have to stick with the dualistic view–yes and no.