“[The humans] pushed at the wheels with long oak poles and slashed at the oxen till their backs were crosshatched with bleeding welts and their noses ran pink foam”(p.38).
The immediate reaction to this quotation from Grendel is pure disgust toward any being capable of such cruel treatment of another living creature. The imagery causes the stomach to turn and the mind to consider the idea that humans may not be the highest in the pyramid of animals. If the oxen’s story was the sole illustration of this concept, the reader could easily overlook it. However, the mistreatment of animals by humans is recurrent throughout the novel, and in fact, humans tend to treat animals with less respect than Grendel, the supposed monster and spawn of Cain, does. Gardner’s intent is to discredit the stereotypical hatred of Grendel and evoke, instead, feelings of disgust toward human beings. The cruel treatment of animals by the humans in the novel is a major proof of this philosophy.
The beginning of the novel is primarily a description of Grendel’s first encounters with and observations of human beings. The bestial monster is appalled at how humans waste animals. At one point, Grendel observes the cold-blooded and unneccessary murder of cows and dogs in an action of war. The destruction and loss in the scene he meets at one group’s camp, breeds contempt for the utter squandering by the humans. Gardner uses Grendel as a looking glass for the reader, to provide insight and a basic theory which the reader can develop on his own. Grendel attempts to salvage and make use of the carcasses while humans kill purely for the satisfaction brought by the slaughter of animals.
Whether its social, business, or personal, animals play an extremely important role in the lives of humans. Humans have been using animals to survive since before 100 BC. Animals have been protectors, companions, benefactors, co-workers, and even best friends. Humans need animals in their lives to stay healthy mentally and even physically. Animals are used in everyday physical therapy to increase ...
Throughout Grendel, John Gardner emphasizes the poor treatment of animals by humans to take the focus off Grendel and make a criticism of human kind. Generally, the reader considers Grendel evil and humans the victim of this beast. Gardner’s writing, however, does not support this hypothesis. Over and over again, negative character traits of human beings surface in the novel. The most effective characteristic discovered is that humans do not appreciate animals and, therefore, treat them very poorly.