What Is The Importance Of Reputation In Beowulf

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Hyunsu (John) Kim
Prof. Hohl
November 10, 2016
Beowulf Paper II
The poem, Beowulf, explores its protagonist’s—Beowulf’s—heroism through a series of three increasingly difficult conflicts with Grendel; Grendel’s mother; and the dragon—, each of which exemplifies an aspect of the Anglo-Saxon heroic code. Beowulf’s first encounter with Grendel demonstrates the importance of reputation as a means of establishing one’s legacy, even beyond death; Beowulf’s triumph over the seemingly indomitable Grendel legitimatizes his boasts and ensures that Beowulf will be long celebrated. His subsequent encounter with Grendel’s mother exhibits the importance of vengeance; just as Beowulf exacts revenge upon Grendel for killing Hrothgar’s men, Grendel’s mother attempts to avenge her son by slaying her son’s aggressors, and Beowulf in turn chases and slays her as revenge again for Aeschere. Lastly, Beowulf’s final encounter with the dragon echoes the fateful mortality that befalls all humans; blinded by his preceding victories, Beowulf engages the dragon alone to preserve his warrior’s reputation and suffers his demise. In all three instances, though Beowulf’s actions embody the traits of a hero in a warrior’s culture, it is these same actions caused by the steep influence that his warrior upbringing has that ultimately lead him to his tragic downfall. Beowulf is introduced at the beginning of the poem as the greatest man in the world: “there was no one else like him alive. In his day,
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