Essay on The Humanization of Grendel

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John Gardner’s Grendel is the retelling of the heroic epic poem Beowulf; however, the viewpoint has shifted. Grendel is told from the viewpoint of one of Beowulf’s antagonists and the titular character of Gardner’s work—Grendel. In Grendel, Gardner humanizes Grendel by emphasizing parallels between Grendel’s life and human life. Through Gardner’s reflection of human feelings, human development, and human flaws in Grendel, this seemingly antagonistic, monstrous character becomes understood and made “human.”
Grendel exhibits human feelings and characteristics in many ways. Although Grendel is a monster “forced into isolation by his bestial appearance and limited imagination” (Butts) he yearns to be a part of society; he craves
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Although he describes her as a “life-bloated, baffled, long-suffering hag” (11), Grendel realizes that “she would gladly have given her life to end my [his] suffering… with useless, mindless love” (102). He also believes that “she must have some human in her” (11), furthering Grendel’s character as one that derived from humankind at the very least. The novel acts as a witness to the fact that Grendel did have a childhood. Although his childhood brought on some struggles, this is a part of all life, including that of people. He finds his purpose in life when “at an early age [he] is forced to deal with a brutal and meaningless reality” (Butts) and he begins he finds his purpose. Throughout Gardner’s novel, Grendel tries to learn “how best to deal with the world” (Butts). As Grendel grows up, he learns from and is influenced by many different people who act as his teachers and role models. These interactions are Grendel’s closest alternative to the relations that the average human has. Grendel has three unique influences in his life: his mother, the Shaper, and the dragon. Grendel views his mother with disgust and she provides the inspiration and motivation for him to do better with his own life. The Shaper’s influence brings out Grendel’s ability of
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