Describe how the author, in Grendel, manages to give internal events (such as awakenings, discoveries, changes of consciousness) the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated...

Describe how the author, in Grendel, manages to give internal events (such as awakenings, discoveries, changes of consciousness) the sense of excitement, suspense, and climax usually associated with external actions.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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John Gardner, author of Grendel, manages to give excitement and suspense to internal awakenings, discoveries, and changes of consciousness by making Grendel the point-of-view character and by pairing the internal with the external.

This novel is not unique in this respect.  Writers and readers discovered during the twentieth century that occurrences within a narrator's mind affect readers much the same way as events in an external plot.  In other words, readers react to what's going on inside of a character's mind pretty much the same way they react to plot events; mental and psychological events equal plot.  Thus, when Grendel, the point-of-view character who narrates the story, writes in reaction to the Shaper:

 I believed him.  Such was the power of the Shaper's harp!  Stood wriggling my face, letting tears down my nose, grinding my fists into my streaming eyes, even though to do it I had to squeeze with my elbow the corpse of the proof that both of us were cursed, or neither, that the brothers had never lived, nor the god who judged them.  "Waaa!" I bawled.

Oh what a conversion! (chapter 4)

the reader is moved in the same way one might be moved by plot.  Readers identify with the character telling the story. 

In this novel, however, Gardner also pairs Grendel's discoveries and conversions with actions.  After Grendel is "converted" by the Shaper, he tries to join the Danes.  "I staggered out into the open and up toward the hall...groaning out, 'Mercy! Peace!'" he writes, only to have the humans respond with "battle-axes."  They "hacked at me, yipping like dogs."  His conversion is fully destroyed when:

Their spears came through it [the body he was holding up for protection] and one of them nicked me, a tiny scratch high on my left breast, but I knew by the sting it had venom on it and I understood, as shocked as I'd been the first time, that they could kill me--eventually would if I gave them a chance.

Thus, his conversion at the hands of the Shaper's art is undone by the reality that the humans are thinking, deadly creatures capable of killing him.  Grendel is awakened to his mortality.  This, too, is mental movement on the part of the point-of-view character. 

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