Is Beowulf's Pomposity Necessary?Beowulf often seems a little full of himself, to say the least. Is this trait necessary to his success as a character?

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sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Ok, I have to play devil's advocate!  This story follows Beowulf throughout his life, from early boastful defeater of Grendel to aged defeater of the Dragon.  But he is not so boastful in that defeat.  He learns in this last battle to accept the help of another, of Wiglaf.  If the development of a story is also the development of its protagonist, then can't we say Beowulf has learned that his pompous and alienating attitude is not necessary to his success?  As a wise old man, he lets another have strength and power.  I think there is a message there..

mrerick's profile pic

mrerick | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Yes, this trait is necessary.  His function in the story is that of the hero.  He must convince the others (and the reader) that is capable of defeating Grendel.  Not only that the reputation of the hero must precede him.  By being confident and pompous, he is ensuring his reputation.  

Another necessity of a hero in epic tales is that the hero is invulnerable - Beowulf's pomposity also functions to give the reader a stronger idea of his strength.  In essence if the reader is not impressed by Beowulf's actions or has forgotten, the character of Beowulf through his demeanor will remind the reader of his greatness.   

Adding to necessary elements of a literary epic (having a hero better than everybody else was already mentioned by merehughes!) - an epic must also contain those values of the society contained with-in the story.  One of the five major values of A-S society was boasting; Beowulf took care of that one!

merehughes's profile pic

merehughes | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

Yes, this trait is necessary.  His function in the story is that of the hero.  He must convince the others (and the reader) that is capable of defeating Grendel.  Not only that the reputation of the hero must precede him.  By being confident and pompous, he is ensuring his reputation.  

Another necessity of a hero in epic tales is that the hero is invulnerable - Beowulf's pomposity also functions to give the reader a stronger idea of his strength.  In essence if the reader is not impressed by Beowulf's actions or has forgotten, the character of Beowulf through his demeanor will remind the reader of his greatness.   

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