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In Beowulf, what are the protagonist's major conflicts?

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aliaazahar | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:37 AM via web

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In Beowulf, what are the protagonist's major conflicts?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:43 PM (Answer #1)

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Beowulf is an Old English poetic narrative, believed to be one of the oldest novel-like works in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The original author is unknown.

Beowulf, the hero of the story, faces many conflicts throughout. His first is against the Grendel, a mysterious monster that is plaguing a neighboring nation. While this is not his problem, Beowulf seeks honor and glory, and so goes to kill the Grendel. An aide at the court tries to slander him, but Beowulf's version of the story is believed, and he determines to face the Grendel without weapons; this is a conflict of faith, as Beowulf places the outcome in the hands of God, giving himself no advantage.

After he tears one of Grendel's arms off, the hall is attacked again by its Mother, seeking revenge. Beowulf has no reason to fight with her, as he has fulfilled his mission, but takes it on himself to help the king and their people. This conflict is internal for Beowulf, as he chooses to further his own glory by seeking Grendel's mother alone. 

Finally, at the end of the story, Beowulf's kingdom is attacked by a Dragon. Beowulf is now old, an established figure, and far past his glory days. However, since he knows that his life is ending, he chooses to fight the dragon himself and leave the kingdom to the younger generation. His conflict here is with his own legend; Beowulf thinks back to his many victories over man and beast, and decides that he is destined to die in battle. Although he insists on fighting the dragon alone, he is joined by Wiglaf, a young warrior, and they kill the dragon together; Wiglaf reminds the dying Beowulf of himself, and he bestows the kingdom to Wiglaf.

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