Beowulf Is Widely Regarded As A Classic `` Good Vs Evil `` Essay

Beowulf Is Widely Regarded As A Classic `` Good Vs Evil `` Essay

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Beowulf is widely regarded as a classic “good versus evil” story. The Beowulf-poet depicts Grendel, his mother and the dragon as the “evil” of this dichotomy. This raises an interesting question concerning the idea of a community: How exactly is “good” distinguished from “evil” in an absolute sense? Given that the Beowulf-poet expresses a tone suggesting that the pagan figures are the evil ones, it is clear that he is biased in his treatment. Still, this tone contradicts some of the events that play out in the epic. Building upon this, one could argue that the distinguishing of this good-evil dichotomy is relative; what is considered “evil” to the Beowulf-poet may be considered “good” from another’s perspective. With this moral relativism in mind, a psychology of confusion is established in the reader that creates a sense of uncertainty concerning one’s values in shaping a community.
The epic poem sets up the good-evil dichotomy as early as the second line; the kings of the Spear-Danes are characterized as courageous and great, leading “heroic campaigns” (line 3). This is interesting when one considers the nature of Shield Sheafson, whose respect was derived from people’s fear of him rather than love; he is even regarded as the “terror of the hall troops,” an interesting contrast to the bravery and greatness with which the speaker regards the Spear-Dane kings (6). Of course, the existence of a heroic code is a considerable determinant of what is morally deemed “good” in Anglo-Saxon society. The make-up of a “good” king is largely his adherence to such a code; he is expected to be a protectorate of his people while exhibiting bravery and generosity, but not necessarily kindness. By these standards, Shield was a “good” king, but wa...


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...that the Beowulf-poet is critically considering the validity of the good-evil dichotomy. The tone leading up to and during the attacks on Grendel and Grendel’s Mother suggest that there is a clear divide between “good” and “evil” largely based on adherence to the heroic code. Imagery plays a significant role in discounting this idea; the “good” becomes enmeshed with the “evil” in that the imagery surrounding Grendel is then used when characterizing Beowulf. Likewise, the light imagery surrounding the dragon further obscures the divide, contributing to a sense of confusion in the reader considering this good-evil dichotomy. As a result, the initial reaction to the text claiming it to be a classic good versus evil story is invalid given the minute elements of the epic. And this conflict of interpretation itself furthers even more the sense of confusion in the reader.

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