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Grendel (1971) An overview of John Gardner’s work.

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1 Grendel (1971) An overview of John Gardner’s work

2 THEMES Artists in Society and the Power of Art Artists in Society and the Power of Art The Importance of Language The Importance of Language Nihilism Nihilism Death Death Heroism—a moral force Heroism—a moral force The Struggle Between Good and Evil--MORALITY The Struggle Between Good and Evil--MORALITY

3 PARODY Grendel both imitates and ridicules specific forms of literature and authors Grendel both imitates and ridicules specific forms of literature and authors Beowulf—most of plot and characters borrowed Beowulf—most of plot and characters borrowed Grendel becomes a “case history of a bad artist” whose words are constantly misunderstood; thus, he inspires acts of violence versus the Shaper who inspires great deeds. Grendel becomes a “case history of a bad artist” whose words are constantly misunderstood; thus, he inspires acts of violence versus the Shaper who inspires great deeds. Various characters represent specific philosophies (Dragon, Hrothulf, Red Horse, etc.) Various characters represent specific philosophies (Dragon, Hrothulf, Red Horse, etc.)

4 STRUCTURE 12 chapters: Twelve years of Grendel’s raids and 12 zodiacs 12 chapters: Twelve years of Grendel’s raids and 12 zodiacs Not chronological: Flashbacks, Allusions, Foreshadowing Not chronological: Flashbacks, Allusions, Foreshadowing Tense: Present tense is interspersed with past telling of events leading up to this 12 th year Tense: Present tense is interspersed with past telling of events leading up to this 12 th year Each chapter presents a different branch of philosophy Each chapter presents a different branch of philosophy

5 CHAPTERS 1-4 Book opens in April, month of the ram and there is an immediate concern with language: Book opens in April, month of the ram and there is an immediate concern with language: –“Talking, talking. Spinning a web of words, pale dreams, between myself and all I see” –Grendel’s mother lives in a cave, mute, beast-like. –Chpt. 2 when Grendel is trapped in tree, most important element is the encounter with the men who speak a language

6 Chapter 3: summary of Grendel’s years watching the Danes who are slowly developing civilization Chapter 3: summary of Grendel’s years watching the Danes who are slowly developing civilization Hrothgar becomes powerful because he has a theory about the purpose of war Hrothgar becomes powerful because he has a theory about the purpose of war The Shaper appears; he does more than make poetry; he retells history and inspires men The Shaper appears; he does more than make poetry; he retells history and inspires men Also the Shaper names Grendel as one of the race of Cain, everything that is dark and evil—this is what Grendel becomes Also the Shaper names Grendel as one of the race of Cain, everything that is dark and evil—this is what Grendel becomes

7 CHAPTERS 5-7 Grendel visits the dragon who tells him the Shaper’s words are an “illusion of reality” leading men to believe there is meaning in the universe. Grendel visits the dragon who tells him the Shaper’s words are an “illusion of reality” leading men to believe there is meaning in the universe. Dragon denies existence of God and meaning and advises Grendel to “seek out gold and sit on it.” Dragon denies existence of God and meaning and advises Grendel to “seek out gold and sit on it.” Grendel discovers dragon has put a “curse” on him: he can no longer be injured by men’s weapons. Grendel discovers dragon has put a “curse” on him: he can no longer be injured by men’s weapons.

8 Grendel finds the “heroic” and idealistic Unferth, and in acting in unexpected ways, completely humiliates the would-be hero. Grendel finds the “heroic” and idealistic Unferth, and in acting in unexpected ways, completely humiliates the would-be hero. When Unferth seeks Grendel in his cave, Grendel shows that life is meaningless; he refuses to engage in battle; he returns Unferth unharmed, “So much for heroism.” When Unferth seeks Grendel in his cave, Grendel shows that life is meaningless; he refuses to engage in battle; he returns Unferth unharmed, “So much for heroism.” The arrival of Wealtheow (“holy servant of the common good”) as a peace offering The arrival of Wealtheow (“holy servant of the common good”) as a peace offering

9 CHAPTERS 8-12 Hrothgar’s nephew arrives after the murder of his father. Hrothgar’s nephew arrives after the murder of his father. Hrothulf’s resentful attitude and desire for power allows Grendel to ponder “the idea of violence.” Hrothulf’s resentful attitude and desire for power allows Grendel to ponder “the idea of violence.” Encounter with priest leads to observations about religion. Encounter with priest leads to observations about religion. Chapter 10, Grendel deals with boredom Chapter 10, Grendel deals with boredom

10 Chapter 11: strangers arrive Chapter 11: strangers arrive Beowulf tells him about the cycles of existence before destroying him. Beowulf tells him about the cycles of existence before destroying him. –“Though you murder the world... Strong searching roots will crack your cave and rain will cleanse it: The world will burn green, sperm build again. My promise.” But Grendel attributes his end to a random accident. But Grendel attributes his end to a random accident.

11 GRENDEL: “ Profile of a Killer” Worksheet Discussion

12 Grendel’s War Chpt. 2: First encounter w/ men, the most dangerous things”: Chpt. 2: First encounter w/ men, the most dangerous things”: Grendel is trapped in a tree. Grendel is trapped in a tree. The men think he is a fungus at first, then a spirit that eats pigs The men think he is a fungus at first, then a spirit that eats pigs King, in fear, attacks him with an ax King, in fear, attacks him with an ax He is saved by his mother He is saved by his mother Men are dangerous because “they think and scheme” Men are dangerous because “they think and scheme”

13 Grendel’s Reaction to the (Scop’s) Shaper’s Songs: Chpt. 3: Grendel is emotionally affected by the songs, the lies Chpt. 3: Grendel is emotionally affected by the songs, the lies He feels torn between what he observes (reality) and what he hears (the beauty and idealism) He feels torn between what he observes (reality) and what he hears (the beauty and idealism)

14 Grendel’s Conversion Chpt. 4: Hearing that he, himself, is considered the dark side of creation, he wishes to convert. He goes to the mead-hall calling for mercy and peace, but is attacked He goes to the mead-hall calling for mercy and peace, but is attacked He wishes for someone to talk to He wishes for someone to talk to He returns because he is addicted He returns because he is addicted He wants the songs to be true, even if he has to be the outcast He wants the songs to be true, even if he has to be the outcast

15 The Dragon’s Answer Chpt. 5: The dragon says that Grendel inspires and improves the Danes Chpt. 5: The dragon says that Grendel inspires and improves the Danes That if there were no Grendel, they would invent one: they need the monster That if there were no Grendel, they would invent one: they need the monster Thus, Grendel is irrelevant. Thus, Grendel is irrelevant. It makes no difference if he stops or not. It makes no difference if he stops or not.

16 The Dragon’s Charm Chpt. 6: Grendel at first feels the charm causes his enemies defeat Chpt. 6: Grendel at first feels the charm causes his enemies defeat Then he realizes he has nothing to fear and nothing to stop him, so his raids become inevitable. Then he realizes he has nothing to fear and nothing to stop him, so his raids become inevitable. He discovers the charm when he accidentally runs into a guard, trips and is not hurt by the sword. He discovers the charm when he accidentally runs into a guard, trips and is not hurt by the sword. He discovers a reason for his existence: he is now “Ruiner of Mead-halls, Wrecker of Kings.” He discovers a reason for his existence: he is now “Ruiner of Mead-halls, Wrecker of Kings.”

17 Psychology Vs. Strength 1. Grendel’s feelings? 2. Beowulf’s trick? 3. Grendel’s defense of Beowulf’s superiority? 4. The whispering? 5. Explanation for defeat?

18 Psychology Vs. Strength 6. Amplifies fight details 1. Beowulf is seen as cool, calculating, clever and vicious. He uses surprise, strength and psychology to defeat Grendel.In the original, Beowulf as hero refuses to use weapons for a fair fight. Grendel rips off his own arm in the poem in his fear ridden desire to escape. In Gardner’s story Beowulf’s tactics throw him off guard and allows Beowulf to rip off his arm. 6. Beowulf’s image 1. Beowulf hero is courtly and chivalrous. In Grendel, Beowulf is seen as slightly mad and cruel; sneaky and calculating; He uses psychologically demoralizing whispers and parody of “Say Uncle!” He also seems to use unnecessary violence. Courtliness seems gone. 6. Grim humor 1. Grim humor: Grendel’s comment that he wouldn’t want to wake up to the sound of his own laughter anymore than the Geats; the napkin; the image of Grendel and Beowulf shaking hands grotesquely.

19 “The Anti-Hero” Both Grendel and Unferth exhibit characteristics of the anti-hero.

20 Grendel as Anti-Hero 1. He murders and cannot be punished 2. He sneaks around at night, spying 3. He makes fun of the Danes and rejects all that they stand for 4. He searches for answers but can find only meanness 5. He is crude, but not stupid or dishonest (He is successful in his feud but a failure at finding happiness) 6. He says he is angry very often

21 Unferth as Anti-Hero 1-3 do not fit: while he did kill his brother, he has made restitution according to the law. 1-3 do not fit: while he did kill his brother, he has made restitution according to the law. 4 He tries for greater heroism in chasing Grendel, but is forced to achieve an ideal the Danes do not understand. 4 He tries for greater heroism in chasing Grendel, but is forced to achieve an ideal the Danes do not understand. 5. He seems a failure as a hero, yet achieves an even more difficult kind of heroism by not giving up even when faced with humiliation; did commit a crude and stupid mistake in the past. 5. He seems a failure as a hero, yet achieves an even more difficult kind of heroism by not giving up even when faced with humiliation; did commit a crude and stupid mistake in the past. Yes, he is angry Yes, he is angry

22 To Be or Not to Be a Hero Hrothgar Hrothgar Unferth Unferth Wealtheow Wealtheow Beowulf Beowulf

23 “Nothing from Nothing”

24 Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act V, Scene v)

25 How Grendel Sees Time (Ch. 10 ) Grendel says “tedium is the worst pain” as the sun walks overhead. Grendel says “tedium is the worst pain” as the sun walks overhead. He waits for the Shaper to die. He waits for the Shaper to die. Chapter filled with references to past and a dark future. Chapter filled with references to past and a dark future. Time passes slow and boringly Time passes slow and boringly

26 Grendel Believes That the Danes are fooled by the shaper’s lies That the Danes are fooled by the shaper’s lies That Unferth is a fool for clinging to his heroic ideals That Unferth is a fool for clinging to his heroic ideals That his war with Hrothgar is “an idiotic war” (Ch 1) That his war with Hrothgar is “an idiotic war” (Ch 1) That he, himself” is a “pointless, ridiculous monster” (Ch 1) That he, himself” is a “pointless, ridiculous monster” (Ch 1)

27 Macbeth's Shadow and Grendel Grendel describes himself as a shadow (Ch. 10) and as walking around the edges of the world, outside the mead-hall at dusk. Grendel describes himself as a shadow (Ch. 10) and as walking around the edges of the world, outside the mead-hall at dusk. Chapter I, Grendel plays game of looking at himself as he postures, as standing outside himself Chapter I, Grendel plays game of looking at himself as he postures, as standing outside himself Also Hrothulf’s arrival and encounter w/ the Priest read like scenes from a play Also Hrothulf’s arrival and encounter w/ the Priest read like scenes from a play

28 A Tale Told By an Idiot? Grendel agrees with Macbeth, he says often that he is stupid and that life is meaningless (and he tells the story) Grendel agrees with Macbeth, he says often that he is stupid and that life is meaningless (and he tells the story) He whispers, cannot be understood by the Danes (his language is older) He whispers, cannot be understood by the Danes (his language is older) His voice is too loud and frightful to be understood. His voice is too loud and frightful to be understood. His killings, an expression of anger and the meaning of his tale he summarizes at the close of chapter 10: “Nihil ex nihilo.” His killings, an expression of anger and the meaning of his tale he summarizes at the close of chapter 10: “Nihil ex nihilo.”


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