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How does Beowulf influence our society? Give some specific examples.

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vhabiljack | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:18 PM via web

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How does Beowulf influence our society? Give some specific examples.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 19, 2013 at 5:29 PM (Answer #1)

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Perhaps the biggest and most tangible way in which we are impacted by this text today is through our notion of what it is to be famous and what celebrity actually involves. Beowulf, as befitting his status as an epic hero, presents readers of all ages with a model of what it takes to be considered a mighty individual worthy of renown. In many ways, Beowulf is a hero who sacrifices everything to sustain his reputation and heroic status. Note, for example what he says before facing his final foe:

Beowulf spoke, made a formal boast
for the last time: "I risked my life
often when I was young. Now I am old,
but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight
for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only
abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open."

Even though Beowulf has aged and is clearly not going to be as strong as he once was, he still feels a massive pressure to keep up his reputation "for the glory of winning." Arguably, he pursues this goal against the best interests of his people, as after all his death spells their destruction. For our celebrity-obsessed age, that places so much value on the reputation of somebody and is based not on reality but superficial image, Beowulf could be considered to be the prototype of a celebrity who is so determined to make a name for himself that he willingly enters into a battle that he has very little chance of winning and will result in the destruction of his people. In one view, this could be considered tremendously narcissistic. This pervasive influence can definitely be seen in our world today. 

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