Grendel Questions and Answers
by John Gardner Jr.

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Explain the theme of "truth" in John Gardner's Grendel as to how it is derived from faulty perceptions and how it applies to the novel as a whole.

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In John Gardner's Grendel, the concept of truth relates toperspective. In the original tale of Beowulf, the monster has—for no good reason—attacked and killed Hrothgar's men. Beowulf arrives to help—to rid the land of this "descendant of Cain." Beowulf is clearly the hero, there to save the Danes—innocent Christians set upon by the bloodthirsty Grendel.

Gardner's Grendel is given a voice, and the story is told from hisperspective. Child-like, he paints himself as a sad, lonely creature who has been attacked by humans. His tale is told in a manner that garners sympathy from the reader for this pitiful and friendless "fiend." However, his "faulty perceptions" are in his repeated failure to take the blame for his actions—condemning humans instead.

As the story progresses, Grendel presents himself as something more "human" than the raging monster in Beowulf. When he confronts Unferth, he carries on "civilized" conversation—to the Dane's amazement—complete with insults:

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