Socio-theological analysis of Gardners Grendel In his novel Grendel, John Gardner presents readers with his own understanding of the essence of metaphysical conflict between ideologically motivated irrationality and evolutionary purposefulness, described in the original story of Beowulf. The character of Grendel can be thought of as the embodiment of existentialist values, which is why the line of his arguments appears to be very progressive. In fact, it might seem that Grendels philosophy corresponds to the pantheistic motives found in works of Alfred North Whitehead, who used to suggest that: Nature is a structure of evolving processes. The reality is the process. For anyone, who is capable of thinking logically, such definition of surrounding reality certainly does make sense. At the same time, the superficial analysis of such characters as King Hrothgar, Hrothulf, Sharper and Beowulf might suggest that their piousness reflects their existential inferiority. However, when we look closer at social dynamics that define the structure of Gardners novel, it will appear that Grendel enemies willingness to subject themselves to the divine power does not correspond to their narrow-mindedness, because unlike modern Bible thumpers, they associated divinity with their essence as individuals.
Let us develop this thesis little further. Grendel is described as a creature that is capable of applying analytical approach, when it comes to dealing with everyday lifes challenges. However, his analytical abilities are being greatly undermined by the fact that Grendel is prisoner of his own emotions. Even in times when the line of his reasoning appears to be fully substantiated, it cannot escape our attention that the only reason why Grendel indulges in philosophizing, is to attain the state of emotional comfort. This betrays his essence as purely emotional being, which is why he cannot be associated with metaphysical positivism, because such positivism is strongly linked to the evolutionary process. The reason why Grendel could not become a part of human world was not his frightful appearance, but because he led an anti-historical mode of existence: So it goes with me day by day and age by age, I tell myself. Locked in the deadly progression of moon and stars (Gardner, Chapter 1, p.
... conclusion to his first comment. "Except men, of course" (Gardner 8). If Grendel feels that he is similar to humans, he should ... at seasons that never were meant to be observed) " (Gardner 6). Grendel does not even feel a sense of accomplishment for his ... but cause death and destruction. He is pure evil. Gardner's Grendel clearly does not justify these ferocious killings. In fact, this ...
The irony lies in the fact that, despite Grendels understanding of the illusionary nature of human religious beliefs, he often finds himself being referred to as deity and he likes it. Thus, it would be wrong to suggest that Grendels outlook on life did correspond to his way of acting. Grendels apparent progressiveness was meant to conceal his existential inadequacy. As we have mentioned earlier, Grendel despises the idea of God, because he associates divine powers with irrational will to dominate, which is the main feature of monotheistic Semitic religions. The reason why he grows critical of Hrothgars kingdom is that, in his view, humans have adopted a religion that is spiritually alien to them.
However, Grendel does not understand that the biological quality of ancient Scandinavians, as well as all Europeans at the time, allowed them to transform the spiritual poison of Christianity in its own anti-thesis. Despite the fact that early Christianity derived out of Judaism, its essence as religion was diametrically opposite to Semitic religious values. Christianity allowed Europeans to give its own idealism an organized form. This was the reason why, despite the fact that Grendel understood the ideological inconsistency of Christianity, he was being subconsciously attracted to it, because it did make sense, in evolutionary sense of this word. The tragedy of Grendel lies in the fact that he failed to recognize the objective value of existence. This is why he is being portrayed by Gardner as ultimate nihilist: The total ruin of institutions and morals is an act of creation. Murder and mayhem are the life and soul of revolution. (Gardner, Chapter 6, p.
... In fact, many religious historians believe that this belief was the prime reason that motivated people to originally create religions. Christianity and ... are fully conscious and glorified individuals whose relationship with God comes to its perfect maturity. Jesus and Gautama " ... and eternal relationship with God. Buddhism, Christianity and all of the other major world religions share a basic rule ...
Therefore, even though that we might admire his uncompromising stance, it is still quite impossible to view Grendel within a context of evolution, unlike humans, he liked to criticize so much. Even though Grendel promotes spiritual liberation, he views it as something that has value in itself, without understanding that, in order for such liberation to be beneficial to humankind, it must serve as factor that pushes forward scientific and cultural progress. The man is intermediary link between ape and super-man, because the Darwinist laws are equally applicable to all living organisms. In its turn, evolution can be defined as continuous process of organisms becoming more complex, which insures their survival in the long run. The reason why humans were able to become a dominant specie is because the power of their intellect.
However, our intellectual development would be impossible, if our ancestors adopted anti-social mode of behavior. The adoption of religion was necessary, at certain point of humankinds evolution, because it allowed people realize themselves as part of society. Thus, we come to very interesting conclusion the reason why Hrothgars people adopted religion, in the first place, is to be able to defy God and to become semi-Gods themselves. Grendels line of arguments would certainly make sense in 19th century, when it was no longer necessary for the Europeans to stick to the religion. That is when his nihilism could have come in handy, but not in the time of the dawn of Western civilization. Therefore, despite the fact that humans in Gardners novel appear to be naive, because of their belief in omnipotent deity, they cannot be referred to as narrow-minded Bible thumpers. Their religious idealism allowed them to defy entropy, while Grendels nihilism turned him into the agent of such entropy.
... . b) Similarities and differences between the gods and humans, according to the Iliad Greek gods are not spiritual beings but are anthropomorphic ... prophetic utterances. Jeremiah, after many years of warning his people of unidentified evil coming from north, wearied by the non ... word to him. • Mental aspect: man has the ability to reason and think logically. • Relational aspect: despite the fact that ...
Therefore, Grendel should be associated with religious intolerance, more then his opponents. His biological makeup made it impossible for Grendel to escape his own destructive emotionalism. This is the reason why, despite Grendels seemingly progressive attitudes, in the novel he acts as equivalent of Jewish tribal deity Jehovah intolerant, hateful, vindictive and bloodthirsty God, who kills people for the sake of his own amusement, while never getting tired of being self-righteous. Thus, we can say that in Gardners novel, people represent the ideas of tolerance and progress, while author uses the character of Grendel to mock the original essence of Christianity, because Grendels philosophical aspirations and his great physical strength, which could have naturally put him into position of semi-God, are being completely nullified by his existential impotence.
Cox, Judson Erasing Christianity. 2002. The Absurd Report.
28 Dec. 2007. http://www.theabsurdreport.com/id99.html Book Notes on Grendel. 2007. BookRags.Com. 28 Dec. 2007. http://www.bookrags.com/notes/gre/ Gardner, John Grendel.
Vintage: New York. 1989..