The Individual Versus His Environment in The Stranger and Grendel

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The Individual Versus His Environment in The Stranger and Grendel Due to the multifaceted nature of literature, analysis thereof is prone to generalization. One of the most grievous generalizations oft encountered involves failing to distinguish between a character and the novel it inhabits. Take John Gardener’s Grendel and Albert Camus’s The Stranger, for instance. It’s far too easy, when analyzing for dominant ideologies, to slap them both with the label of existentialism and be done with it. However, closer scrutiny indicates that whilst both Meursault and Grendel are existential heroes, Grendel, unlike Meursault, exists in a solipsistic universe that runs contrary to his ideology and thusly never experiences the catharsis that…show more content…
In Camus’s The Stranger, we have the platonic ideal of a book designed to promote a certain philosophy. In John Gardener’s Grendel, however, the message is not so clear-cut. Grendel, the ill-fated anti-hero of the John Gardener novel which bears his name, acts primarily in the manner of an existentialist hero. He embraces his alienation, spending the majority of his time alone; he frequently evokes the absurd to mock those who would try and bring false meaning to a meaningless world; and though he meets characters who embody different ideologies, all trying to influence him towards one philosophy or another, his final whispered curse has a heavily existential flavor. But though Grendel may be an existentialist hero, Grendel is a hostile environment for existentialism to thrive; you see, Grendel does not live in an existential world, like Meursault does. Grendel’s universe is solipsistic, and because he never embraces this fact, there can be no catharsis for Grendel. Though solipsism and existentialism may appear similar at first glance, closer inspection reveals them to be philosophical oil and water. For conclusive proof that these ideologies do not play well together, we need only recall the previously-quoted passage from Existentialism is a Humanism, “The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself.” If this is so, then living in a solipsistic universe

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