Do the Evil Deserve Sympathy in Grendel or Beowulf?

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According to Sympathy can be defined as “the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.” ( Pertinently this definition, as well as the information provided after reading both, The Poem Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel. and the novel Grendel by John Gardner, it appears evident that the character Grendel gains more sympathy from the reader than that of the character Beowulf.

Sympathy's definition, as previously stated implies that one, in this case the reader, can share feelings with another, Grendel, most often said feelings are that of sorrow. One instance, when you can particularly sympathize with Grendel, happens to be when he gets stuck in a tree, and Hrothgar and his men, come upon him, about to be attack:

I shrieked at them, trying to scare them off, but they merely ducked behind bushes and took long sticks from the saddles of their horses, bows and javelins. … I'd never howled more loudly in my life. Darts like hot coals went through my legs and arms and I howled more loudly still. (27)

The reader can interpret and feel the pain, and fear that Grendel endures being put through, as well as the confusion as to why these men are attacking him, when he was only asking for food.

As the story progresses, Grendel becomes entranced with the Thanes, and keeps a constant vigilance on them, One night Grendel, follows the Thanes when they set about defeating another group, The Hemlings, for they were growing far to large, and the King feared that they would take over. Once they appeared at the Hemlings' camp, the two Kings talked about the impending fight, Hrothgar wanting the fight, whereas ...

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...path, peeking in like a whiskered old voyeur, wet-lipped, red-eyed, my chest filled with some meaningless anguish, I watch the old man working up the nerve to let his heart stop.” (143) Grendel becomes overwhelmed with the sadness surrounding the Shaper, and becomes overwhelmed with the grief, one again letting the readers share his feelings on the situation. Then, once the old man has died, Grendel watches as a messenger leaves to tell the news to a woman, at this Grendel appears to come to a revelation, “So all of us must sooner or later pass.” (145)

Works Cited
Bateson, F . W . "Grendel and Beowulf Were Two Pretty Boys." The New York Review of Books. 3rd . New York: 1971. Print.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Pgs.27, 100, 109, 110, 143, 145. Print.

“Sympathy”, LLC

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