A Subtle Metaphor For Women And Sexuality

Decent Essays

Boats are used in a subtle metaphor for women and sexuality in Beowulf. The boats Beowulf sails upon are described with surprisingly sensual language that stands out from the rest of the poem’s descriptions. The author writes of the “foam at her neck”, “her curved prow”, and his intention to “ply the waves”, all of which seem sensually coded. It is a small detail that boats, graceful and powerful objects, use female pronouns in Beowulf, but it is interesting. Using feminine pronouns mixed with vague sensuality shows some admiration and appreciation of female sexuality. There are more explicit parts of the poem that could have had some sensual detailing, but instead, those moments are coyly and respectfully handled. This shows us that women …show more content…

The earliest mention of a woman in Beowulf is describing Onela’s wife as a “balm in bed to the rugged Sweede”. This sets a precedent for an odd kind of objectification. While a woman might be treated and described as an object (“balm”), she is also an essential part of a man’s emotional stability, and therefore deserves respect. This resonates in the author’s habit of describing women by their relationship to a man and solidifies a woman’s feminine purpose to be gentle and soothing to men. It is also worth noting that the author’s admonition that the woman smooths roughness means there is roughness to be found in men, and whether it is innate or not, men rely on women’s gentle natures to support and heal the part of themselves that is marred by the warrior culture.

Even the demonic creature Grendel needed a woman to support him, and he had his mother. She has no formal name, just “Grendel’s Mother”, which is maybe the harshest manifestation of disrespect towards her because there is very little vilifying of Grendel’s Mother. Even though she killed many men, the author never condemns her in the way that he does Grendel. Her actions, though terrifying and violent to the author, are justified, because she is avenging and mourning her son’s death, which is a woman’s duty. She must be killed and stopped, obviously, because she is wreaking havoc, but she is different than her son, who killed with impunity and with little motivation beyond a noise complaint.

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