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STUDYWORLD STUDYNOTES:

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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 it's main character. Although not all of Beowulf's thoughts and actions are worthy of hero status in our culture, 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". Many of the qualities of an Anglo-Saxon hero were possessed by Beowulf. One of Beowulf's largest and most noticeable quality is his strength. It is clear that he would have never been able to be in the position that he was, if it wasn't for his extraordinary gift of strength. This was shown all throughout the epic such as him being the only one to defeat Grendel. Beowulf's bravery was also another quality possessed only by heroes. He and the future leader, Wiglaf are the only ones brave enough 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 gender as well as being ambitious, a natural leader, and eager for fame almost to the point of stupidity (in our eyes of course). There was also Beowulf's surety in himself. Even though Beowulf instructed Hrothgar to deal with his corpse if he were to fail in the battle with Grendel, his character made it 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 Gardener's "Grendel", a very different picture of the hero Beowulf was painted. Beowulf was 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 are supposed to 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. Lack of emotions are a positive thing in Beowulf, since his character never develops any or at least shows them in the epic. 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 at its time, are chaotic to us and the society in which Gardner wrote.

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

 



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