Grendel Character Analysis

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The book Grendel by John Gardner details the life of the monster Grendel until he is defeated by the hero Beowulf at the end of the story. Gardner paints Grendel in a more sympathetic light, compelling the reader to understand and even feel sorry for the monster. He appears philosophical and curios from the perspective Gardner creates, and the humans seem almost villainous for shunning him when he tries to understand and interact with them. The humans create the monster inside of Grendel by mistreating him, and that monster is tested by heroes like Unferth and Beowulf. Grendel was initially curious by nature, not cruel or vicious. He sought to explore and understand his world and the creatures in it, including the humans. Grendel…show more content…
Even Grendel begins to believe that he is a monster cursed by God, and the Shaper and the Danes certainly treat him as if it were true. He eventually gives up on trying to make peace with the humans and starts acting like the terrible creature they think he is. The Danes continue to test the monster that they’ve created, both knowingly and unwittingly. At times they intentionally challenge Grendel when he attacks, mostly by sending heroes to stop him. Unferth is the first man to chase after Grendel and follow him back to his cave and threaten to kill him; he tells Grendel, “‘One of us is going to die tonight. Does that break up your boredom?’” (89). It is expected that Grendel will rise up to this challenge and kill Unferth, who is weak from the journey to the cave and unable to stand, let alone fight. However, after Unferth falls asleep Grendel explains that he “picked him up and gently carried him home” (90). A monster would have simply killed him. This indicates that Grendel failed his test and is not a monster because he refuses to murder the hero. Grendel also fails another test when he decides not to kill Wealtheow after capturing her at the meadhall and watching as the men are unable to save her. He then suddenly decides that “It would be meaningless, killing her. As meaningless as letting her live,” and abruptly lets her go (110). Grendel’s final test comes at the end of
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