Over the centuries, many books have been written, and a large handful have been challenged or even banned by societies. Certain books have better reasons to be banned than others and while some of those reasons seem valid, many will seem unjustified to readers. John Gardner’s Grendel, published in 1970, is a prime example of having valid reasons for banning a book. Grendel is a alternate viewpoint of the Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf”, written centuries ago, whose author is not known. It tells the same exact tale, the first story of Good vs. Evil, but from the villains point of view, in this case, Grendel ‘s. The novel describes Grendel’s viewpoint and what he thinks and considers of himself and all around him. The story begins in the spring, and ends in the spring, and between those seasons, you read of how Grendel tortures men and their kingdoms all over the country-side, killing and eating, then finally meeting Beowulf for the final showdown. All these details are explained very in depth and graphically, which is a reason some have wanted to censor the book (Gonzales).
Grendel like all books have been criticized for its content, and also at the same time has been praised for its content (Grappling).
When critics claim that it has much unneeded violence and graphic detail, they refer to the times Grendel terrorizing Hrothgar’s kingdom, the main group of men Grendel seeks violence and death upon (Sova, 150-152).
Critics also complain that Grendel’s viewpoints are often nihilistic and existentialist, and they don’t want kids to read such viewpoints, at least not without careful discussion within a classroom (Gonzales).
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Parent’s often complain along with the critics, stating that the violence is senseless and overly graphic. They don’t’ want their children reading this, and want it out of the school curriculum (Sova. 150-152).
Many of the same reasons for why the book should be banned, are some of the reasons Grendel has been praised. When critics complained of the depressing, and hateful viewpoints, supporters found them to help the book show its moral side. Supporters of Grendel often find that it is a highly moral book. Its viewpoints often share a view about the tale of Beowulf in a much different way, and extend the theme of the “Beowulf” poem’s theme of “Good vs. Evil” much farther (Gonzales).
The violence , and Grendel’s lust for blood is another reason supporters of the book think it should not be censored or banned. It was part of the poem “Beowulf”, and a great part of Grendel. The violence in the novel depicts Grendel’s fantasies, and frustration with man (Grappling).
Supporters say Grendel was the first villain ever in English literature, violence should be necessary, and with the viewpoints, it is most often the only way (Grappling).
Grendel is a very graphic and descriptive novel. Even a the most hardened reader will find that the scenes of violence and Grendel’s thoughts very disturbing and vivid (Gonzales).
For instance, every time Grendel attacks a town, he always ends up eating the men he kills and captures (Sova. 150-152).
He always sacks his men, and goes out and eats them. Gardner writes vivid descriptions about “blood dripping and matting his fur”, how men taste nasty, and how wonderful it is to kill. Grendel’s viewpoints and thoughts might also be a reason for censorship. He is constantly thinking down upon himself, and depises all that is around him.. Grendel hates life, and is always venting out his hate upon man. Most critics do not want their children to read such books and negativity so they want it censored (Grappling).
Another main reason for Grendel to be censored is the Dragon. The Dragon within the novel is very pessimistic and cynical, even though Grendel thinks that the Dragon is the greatest creature in all of Earth (Gonzales).
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But as Grendel finds out, the Dragon is the worst creature imaginable. The Dragon is completely cynical, and looks down upon everything, except his gold. He represents the two most powerful things in the world, greed and cynicism, and Grendel expecting to find enlightentment, finds nothing more than what he had before. The Dragon to the reader will seem like everything that is bad in the world, and shifts some of that burden onto Grendel, who goes insane with rage afterwards. The viewpoints and gritty and graphic violence are concerns for censorship (SFReader).
Only few groups have tried to censor and ban the book, but they have gone to far lengths to try and do so. Such as the parents of a Douglas, Colorado student who described the book as “foul”, and had too much sexual and violent content. The student said “It made me sick and it made me feel dirty” after she had read the book. A Board of Education member at Douglas, John Sheehan , states he found it highly disturbing, and very difficult. He also said it was “gut-wrenching, existentialist, and very nihilistic” (Gonzales).
The same thing happened at a Viewmont school, where a mother started a petition against the book. With some support, she had gathered a large crowd and started a large protest against it. But later, she withdrew her challenge, when the school board and teachers decided on a policy to help decide if controversial books should be taught. The board will review the books, and deem and limitations on it, and the censors will review the limits and book itself, and deem their approval for the book (Grappling).
Grendel is not banned anywhere anymore, nor is it censored anymore. But it is still somewhat limited in audience, as certain schools can only teach it at a certain grade level and age, while others are more free in their reading materia (Gonzales).
Grendel, although with valid reason to be banned, is heavily supported and liked by teachers and literary critics everywhere. It should never been banned, or ever challenged, even with its graphic scenes, and unpopular viewpoints, Grendel is a great book, and should stay in our bookshelves forever.
Each year, libraries across the United States report hundreds of challenges. The leading causes for contesting a book are sexually explicit content, offensive language and inappropriate subjects for minors [source: American Library Association]. Only a minority of the requests actually make it through to banning the book from its respective library. The Catcher in the Rye. The Scarlet Letter. ...
Gardner, John C. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books. 1970.
Gonzales, Lee Ann. “Douglas county (Colorado) News-Press”. Is Challenged book really optional?. 25 Dec.1996. Douglas county News-Press. 9 Nov. 2002.
Grappling with Grendel or what we did before the censors came. Feb 1997. NCTE-Kenneth L. Zeeman. 5 Nov. 2002.
SFReader: Grendel by John Gardner. 2 Feb. 2002. SFReader.com. 9 Nov. 2002.
< http://www.sfreader.com/read_review.asp?ID=40 >
Sova, Dawn B. Banned books: Literature suppressed on Social Grounds. New York: Facts on File, Inc. 1998.