Can anyone explain the representation of evil and its significance in the poem "Beowulf"?

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most visible representation of evil is that of the monster Grendel and his equally monstrous mother. The narrator of the poem explains:

"...a fiend out of hell,

began to work his evil in the world.

Grendel was the name of the grim demon

...

he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters,

Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed,

Condemned as outcasts" (100-108).

Less obvious symbols of evil are in the acts of man which go against God's law: greed, pride, and lust. The speaker repeatedly points out that human hubris is ultimately the downfall of mankind, and the source for all evil in the world:

"The truth is clear," he says, "Almighty God rules over mankind / and always has" (700-703).

Yet men are apt to forget this, believing in their delusions that they are immortal. The speaker reminds those who think themselves gods of their foolishness:

"But death is not easily

escaped by anyone:

all of us with souls, earth-dwellers

and children of men, must make our way

to a destination already ordained

where the body, after the banqueting,

sleeps on its deathbead" (1000-1007).

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