In the book, Grendel by John Gardner, Grendel shows that existentialism is significant in his life. Many of his decisions are based on the thought of whether they have a meaning behind it or not. He tries to be nihilistic and think that the world has no meaning but he ends up being existentialist as he cares about how his choices will be perceived. There are different characters that have existentialism in their lives which allows them to function throughout their world. This book promotes existentialism because the different main characters take on their unique roles throughout the book and create their own meaning.
The Shaper creates his own meaning by using his poetry to not only entertain the Danes but also to give them a sense of purpose. “He would sing the glory of Hrothgar’s line...and stir up his men to more daring deeds,” (42). This is when the Shaper first goes to Hrothgar’s kingdom and sings his first song to the people. He gives the people newfound confidence to become victorious in performing new bold tasks. In this sense, he gives the Danes a purpose as well. The Shaper gives himself a purpose by changing the way the world is viewed by others. “...and they, who knew the truth, remembered it his way-and so did I,” (43). This is when Grendel creeps away after listening to the Shaper’s song. The Shaper transforms the way the people remember history and look at the world, despite them knowing the truth before. “‘He reshapes the world...so his name implies,” (49). This is the second time Grendel goes to listen to the Shaper. Grendel has an epiphany on what exactly the Shaper does wherever he goes and what his name means. The Shaper has a huge effect on Grendel’s life, appealing to his emotion and...
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...s desires. Grendel is acting upon his role as the monster because after speaking to the dragon, he realizes that nothing can stop him.
These characters (Grendel, Wealtheow, Shaper, and Unferth) are all examples of existentialism being present in their lives throughout the story. Their ability to create their own meaning allows them to have some influence on the other characters. They promote the existentialism and show how creating their own meaning can be a good or a bad thing, depending on their point of view. Grendel tends to see the negative side of the good things because he has put on the persona as the all-destroying villain. When in reality, he is just a confused creature trying to figure out the way that he fits into this world. He turns to these different characters in order to find who he is and he turns to these different philosophies and explores them.
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