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STUDYWORLD STUDYNOTES:

CLASSIC LITERATURE ANALYSIS

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"AND""OR"

Beowulf
The definition of a hero is always made and changed by the society and culture in which that hero resides. These ideas also change with generation and cultural gaps. This is clearly shown in the case of the epic poem Beowulf and its main character. Although not all of Beowulf's thoughts and actions are worthy of hero status if they were to be determined in our culture, however, they were seen as acts of great heroism in the Anglo-Saxon culture. The contrast of these aspects of heroism in a more modern culture can be seen when the same heroic characters are looked upon in a different light in John Gardner's Grendel. Beowulf possessed many of the qualities of an Anglo-Saxon hero; bravery and strength. His main quality was his strength as he was the only one able to defeat Grendel. He exhibited bravery when he and Wiglaf were able to withstand the Dragon. His bravery, when coupled with his strength, made him a perfect candidate for hero status. Other characteristics that allowed Beowulf to rise to the top were his ambitious nature, his eagerness for fame, and his ability to be a leader. Throughout his adventures, Beowulf exuded an air of self confidence. For example, before the battle with Grendel, he instructed Hrothgar to deal with his corpse if he were to die, however, his demeanor made it quite clear that the battle would be victorious. Even in the end Beowulf did not loose to the biggest enemy of man in the world of the epic. He conquered the Dragon and then evolved to the final stage of his life. In the end he had served the people well as a warrior and a leader. In the book, "Grendel", written by Gardner, a very different picture of the hero Beowulf was painted.
Beowulf
is depicted as being crazy, and mean. "He's crazy. I understand him all right, make no mistake. Understand his lunatic theory of matter and mind, the chilly intellect, the hot imagination, blocks and builder, reality as stress." (pg. 151). In the book, Grendel we are left not liking Beowulf, whereas in the poem " Beowulf" we admire and like Beowulf. The difference of the hero concept is evident. Why were these heroes, the same man, so different? The time and our society leads to this difference in a great way. In the epic, Beowulf's heroic deeds are stressed and any emotions that he may have felt are omitted as they might have diminished his heroic status in the eyes of the Anglo Saxons. In Grendel, however, this makes him seem like a cruel human being. Beowulf's actions, no matter how heroic they might have seemed in the epic, appear chaotic to Gardner.

"For complete summary and analysis of literary works, please visit NovelGuide.com

 



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