What are some similarities between Grendel and Beowulf? I'm writing a research paper for my English class. My topic is to compare and contrast on Beowulf and Grendel. I have found many differences...
What are some similarities between Grendel and Beowulf? I'm writing a research paper for my English class. My topic is to compare and contrast on Beowulf and Grendel. I have found many differences between the characters but no similarities.
When we consider the motivations of the people who wrote, revised, and passed down the Beowulf text, we can understand why the character of Beowulf is depicted as brave and heroic. One effective way to demonstrate his worthiness is by showing how he defeated an evil enemy. This moral contrast, good versus evil, is played out in the obvious differences between the characters. By considering some ordinary attributes and associations of these characters, however, one can find even more similarities.
Beowulf and Grendel both live in the same area; the fact that Grendel makes raids on Beowulf's community is a large part of the reason Beowulf goes after him. They both want to control the people in that area, but only Beowulf's control is portrayed as legitimate. Both characters are male and both are human or humanlike quadrupeds (with four limbs; in fact, both have two arms and two legs). Their physical similarities matter because they are in some ways evenly matched opponents—rather than Beowulf challenging a very different kind of creature, such as a dragon—and because the epic emphasizes the importance of Beowulf severing Grendel's arm. Both are violent and settle their differences through violent behavior: both are killers.
The issue of their humanity is interesting as well: given their astonishing strength and their ferocity in battle, the reader might question if either one of them is merely human and, by extension, which qualities make a creature into a monster. While in the epic Beowulf is clearly the hero, recent alternative interpretations have raised such questions. John Gardiner's fictionalized treatment, Grendel (1977), inspires sympathy for the "monster."
This is an interesting idea to think about. In part, Beowulfis the story of an epic hero who defeats the marauding monster, Grendel. As you note in your explanation, the hero has very little in common with the villain--and that is how it should be. There are several points of comparison between them, though. First, each has complete confidence in his ability to accomplish his goal. Grendel has virtual control over this village, this mead-hall, and this king. Beowulf is in much the same position when he arrives, as they have been unable to protect themselves from the fiend and are willing to let Beowulf have control. Second, both Grendel and Beowulf are strong warriors. In an actual hand-to-hand battle, the two are at an impasse for quite a while until Beowulf finally tears Grendel's arm out of the socket. Third, each of them has a woman who mourns their loss. Grendel's mother does not come to Heorot to pick a fight with the man who killed her son; instead, she takes Grendel's arm to her lair, presumably to mourn his loss. At Beowulf's funeral, there is one woman who particularly mourns his loss. There are undoubtedly other points of comparison, as well, but these should get you started.
Beowulf and Grendel do appear to be polar opposites upon first glance; however, they do share some similar qualities. For example, both Grendel and Beowulf are quite strong. We are told that Beowulf has the strength of 30 men, and remember that he does tear Grendel's arms off. We know that Grendel is strong because he holds his own against Beowulf. I also believe that Beowulf and Grendel are brave. Beowulf is obvious for this trait, because he willingly goes to fight against the evil Grendel; however, Grendel also goes into battle night after night against great warriors. Finally, both Grendel and Beowulf are characters of great violence. Grendel is a man eating terror, but Beowulf doesn't come to the rescue prepared for diplomacy with Grendel. Beowulf fully intends to solve the problem of evil through violence.