Homer Gardner Beowulf Term Paper


Troublemakers Though an audience trained by the principle of chivalry and Christian sentiment might expect an epic hero to be a paragon of virtue, the ancient epic heroes were quite often more what the postmodernists have created in the modern antihero. So one can compare the protagonist of John Gardner's antiheroic Grendel -- in which the monster of an old dawn-of-Christianity epic becomes the hero of a postmodern tale -- not so much with the villains of older epics but with their heroes. In particular, one can compare the character of Grendel with Odysseus (particularly as he is seen in the Odyssey, though it is important to remember that both the Iliad and the Odyssey are written by Homer and as companion pieces function as elements of the same epic). Both Grendel and Odysseus are somewhat antiheroic: Grendel is a murderer and a trickster whose villainy defines a people, while Odysseus (whose very name apparently means troublemaker) is the grandson of a notorious thief who is himself known for his trickery and his elaborate lies. Yet though both are troublemakers and sorrowers, Grendel and Odysseus also share a certain heroism in their search for a spiritual and physical homecoming.

If one is to see how Grendel and Odysseus share a common quest,...


Odysseus begins the story of Odyssey trapped in Calypso's cave, and staring out across the ocean. He is dreaming of going home to Penelope, and he speaks often of Ithaca. Though he has the love of a goddess here, and everything physical he could desire, he still wishes to find his own level with his mortal wife. The way in which Odysseus speaks of a need to be with mortal kind helps to show that while this is mainly a need for a physical homecoming, there is also a significant spiritual element to it. Odysseus needs home and Penelope in order to become whole. Grendel, on the other hand, never goes far from his mother's cave. He does not have to travel vast distances like Odysseus. Yet he too is, in all his fascination with Hrothgar's people, in all his ramblings and rumblings, looking for a spiritual kind of home. Grendel appears to be the only thinking beast of his sort, and one could suggest that all his hatred and frustration stems from the need to find his personal Penelope: his equal. This is even made explicit in the word that he screams out whenever he realizes that he cannot join the humans: "the sound went out, violent, to the rims of the world, and after a moment it bounced back up at me…

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