Manual A Critical Look at John Gardners Grendel

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Editorial Reviews
  1. A Critical Look At John Gardners Grendel! File -
  2. See a Problem?
  3. Michael Segedy

One of my University of Florida colleagues told me that he once found himself wishing the Beowulf manuscript had gone up in flames along with the other manuscripts that were destroyed in the Cotton Library fire. Another colleague, a highly respected scholar, said the only thing that saved him was a carefully hand-written translation of Beowulfthat he found far back in the drawer of a desk in his graduate student office.

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And one day--I remember this well, even though it was back in the days of blackboards--I came to my own Old English class and found this gentle protest written on the board: "We fall upon the b b b b b b b b b b b b [thorns] of life, we bleed! John Gardner was not one of those protesters.

He may have been the "literary outlaw" the title of Barry Silesky's biography identifies him as, but he chose to study Old English. As Silesky tells this part of Gardner's life story in John Gardner: The Life and Death of a Literary Outlaw, 2 Gardner, who had been awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to study creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, immediately enrolled in the University of Iowa graduate program to study medieval literature instead. He signed up for John McGalliard's Old English course his first semester and then took his Beowulf-course the following semester And Jay Ruud, if the close attention he gives to the language of Beowulf in "Gardner's Grendel and Beowulf" 3 can be taken as evidence, could hardly have been one of those protesters either.

A Critical Look At John Gardners Grendel! File -

In his presentation of Gardner's Grendel as a "three-sided figure: part monster, part devil, and part human" 7 , Ruud provides quotations of Beowulf lines aa, 86aa, bb, bb, and ab, along with translations and explication with reference to the scholarship available at the time of his study. Having begun my own studies as an English major at a time when the "intentional fallacy" prohibition was still in effect, 4 I think Ruud may overstep when, continuing, he writes that the Beowulfpoet's "main purpose in his characterization of Grendel was the depiction of horror--the horror of the outside, the 'other,' the infinite circle of darkness enclosing the briefly lit beer-hall" , and I could more easily agree with his claim that "When John Gardner adapts Grendel to the environment of the modern novel, he is primarily interested in the creature's human side" if Ruud had provided a direct quotation of a statement of purpose in support 8.

But, be that as it may, I can readily acknowledge that Grendel's life story, as Gardner enables him to tell it, embodies varied aspects of human experience. Gardner's Grendel does, like the central figures of Old English elegiac poetry Ruud cites lines from "The Wanderer," "The Wife's Lament," and Beowulfin illustration here , endure the suffering of an outcast from society.

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And, while his attacks on Hrothgar's hall dramatically reveal his monstrous origins, the fact that in Gardner's version of his story Grendel cannot resist the attraction of the songs of the Shaper he is permitted to hear only from outside the mead hall represents an important aspect of the human experience of alienation that Ruud singles out for attention. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page.

If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. Grendel is unhappy in many ways.

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He wants to be accepted by man but never knew why he was always shunned out of there society. Grendel in the beginning never set out to hurt man just understands him. Grendel is very lonely in the world of man.

Michael Segedy

He has only one person close to him and that is his mother. She cares for Grendel but just with the natural motherly instincts which Grendel sees as mechanical.

Grendel is more superior. HE wants to be part of the humanistic world.

He wants a different role in society. This makes Grendel very unhappy that he cannot be accepted. The Dragon puts a spell on Grendel that lets weapons not harm him. At first he does not like this because he thinks that the fun of destroying men would be too easy at this point.