Mixed Messages In Beowulf

Decent Essays

The concept of mixed messages is frustrating, as it can lead to inconsistencies, misunderstandings, and mistakes. However, they find their way into numerous cases anyway. In texting, Facebook status updates, meetings, and many other modern contexts, mixed messages are prevalent; however, we have the opportunity for clarification from others as to what is intended to be portrayed. We are not so lucky to have that luxury regarding classical literature. Many mixed messages are present in literature, forcing us to interpret the text to the best of our abilities, since we cannot ask the author or poet directly. This problem occurs in Beowulf, as the source of Beowulf’s strength is unclear to the audience. Beowulf defeats monsters and saves the day, yet it is unclear whether he is victorious due to his own strength and skill, or because of the intervention of God. However, we can use this unclear distinction to focus on the culture of the people during this time, whether these mixed messages are intentional, and what they can reveal. When Grendel’s mother attacks the mead hall in the night, Beowulf miraculously defends himself and survives. “The monster wretched and wrestled with him but Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength, the wondrous gifts God had showered on him: He relied for help on the Lord of All, and His care and favour” (1269-1274). This contrast in strength or divine intervention reveals the importance of strength and skill in the society and the integration of

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