Various people know that “curiosity killed the cat” but that is not the initial statement. In 1598, during Every Man in His Humour by English playwright Ben Jonson, the expression was first known as “care’ll kill a cat” (1). This phrase doesn’t implicate care as to nurture or tend to, but rather worry or sorrow. The remark “curiosity killed the cat” is commonly used when one wants another to stop asking nonessential questions. Much like the cat in the play, the 1971 novel Grendel by John Gardner, also holds a beast curious about his life and surroundings. In the novel, Grendel is portrayed as a child with a lack of understanding and a need to adventure throughout the world. Although he is scared to venture too far from his mother, he progresses further with each trip. He is a very intriguing “creature of two minds” whom constantly questions the essence of his monstrous life (Fawcett and Jones 1).
Throughout his existence, Grendel asks, “What is the meaning of life? Who am I? Why am I here?” Though these questions are never answered for him, the readers can sense some relevance of truth by his actions. Grendel faces the world with no acceptance of others. Although he has some similarities with the humans, they only see his beastly ways. In chapter two, Grendel first encounters mankind. They have gotten him down from the tree and at first thought he was some kind of fungus, but they then realized he must be a tree spirit. Grendel notices that the humans are like him in a way, “… it was my own language, but spoken in a strange way,…”
(Gardner 23). He concludes that the humans are smarter than any creature he has endured thus far. Before the interaction with the humans, when Grendel is stuck in the tree, he...
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.... “Poor Grendel’s had an accident, so may you all.” (174).
As one watches Grendel grow throughout the novel, they can determine the different monster and also human traits he obtains. Despite the fact the questions Grendel constantly asks are not directly answered in the book, the readers can conclude that by the end of the novel Grendel understands everything better than he did before as a foolish child. Grendel is undeniably, alone in this world. Man refuses to accept him, and his mother is not capable of conversation. The shaper’s song only gives Grendel hope just to have it all destroyed. As we progress towards the end of the story, we see Grendel is more intelligent and grows out of his monstrous ways into more of a human being. Regardless of all the terrible tragedies he has committed, Grendel simply wants to be embraced by someone and live a meaningful life.
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