The Hero vs Villian Dichotomy in Beowulf Essay

925 WordsNov 11, 20124 Pages
Casey Kerins AP English Literature 10/1/12 In the Epic Beowulf, composed in the 8th century, the reader follows the protagonist, Beowulf, on a series of adventures to defeat three key monsters. This old English poem uses a series of motifs to help develop its themes, known as dichotomies. Dichotomies, defined as “opposites on the same spectrum,” range from good and evil to young and old, light and dark to Christianity and paganism. All these dichotomies are represented clearly in the text; however the concept of Heroes and Villains can be pulled in many different directions. Although Beowulf is always the hero, it is questionable as to if his three opponents are simply “villains.” In the first of Beowulf’s three battles, he fights…show more content…
She was mournful and attacked Heorot to avenge the death of her son. Being more of an angry, scared woman and not a bloodthirsty monster, she quickly realized her mistake in attacking and fled for her life, taking a chieftain with her. Beowulf went to destroy the beast, and succeeded in bloodily killing Grendel’s mother. The text says “he smote so ferociously that it caught her by the neck, breaking her bones” (57). Beowulf again proved victorious, a hero in the eyes of the Danes. This second battle is more complicated than the first. Although one can merely say “Beowulf is the hero, Grendel’s mother is the villain” and be done with it, further thought suggests it is not that simple. As a warrior and hero, Beowulf upholds himself to the heroic code, calling for courage, honor, and vengeance. If our standards for a hero rest on these three qualities, is not Grendel’s mother as heroic as the Hero? She is honorable in trying to avenge her son’s death, just as Beowulf was with Grendel and the Danes. She shows courage by attacking Heorot, full of warriors, and obviously wants vengeance for her son’s death. Although Grendel’s mother is ugly in appearance and a descendent of Cain, therefore cursed and evil, she is justified in retaliating, and possesses the three qualities of a hero. The final battle takes place fifty years after Beowulf defeats Grendel and his mother, and he is now an old king. Beneath

    More about The Hero vs Villian Dichotomy in Beowulf Essay

      Open Document