The Meaningless Life of Grendel in John Gardner's Grendel Essay

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The Meaningless Life of Grendel in John Gardner's novel, Grendel "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive...." Joseph Campbell made this comment on the search for meaning common to every man's life. His statement implies that what we seem bent on finding is that higher spark for which we would all be willing to live or die; we look for some key equation through which we might tie all of the experiences of our life and feel the satisfaction of action toward a goal, rather than the emptiness which sometimes consumes the activities of our existence. He states, however, that we will never find some great…show more content…
Like a puppy nipping, playfully growling preparing to battle with wolves." [Page 16] In his early years, Grendel shares the naivete of all things youthful, unchained by the perceptions and limitations the mature mind places on reality in its attempt to instill order to a disorganized world. He has, at this point in his life, no rational concept of reality as a whole, he sees it in vague shadow-shapes and imaginary cohorts. In this condition he finds a certain playful joy. While it is an admittedly childish state of mind, he is quite happy at play, as are most children. When the change and growth comes, it brings him down from the ignorant bliss he feels in his immaturity. These oblivious views change when he comes to several realizations about creatures as non-thinking, and in his first contact with the reasoning- and brutality- of humans. It is then, after returning to his cave, that he has one key revelation concerning perception and its influence upon existence. "The mountains are what I define them as.... What I see I inspire with usefulness... and all that I do not see is useless, a void." [28-29] Grendel then sees that the world is how he views it, and his senses make up everything: reality is dynamic. This important conclusion leads him to begin to look around him and form thoughts and opinions on all that he sees, as well as placing him at the first step down the road of the cynical death he suffers. His first impressions

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