Essay on Satire in John Gardner's Grendel

Essay on Satire in John Gardner's Grendel

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Satire in Grendel


"The state is an organization of violence, a monopoly in what it is pleased to call legitimate violence (Gardner, 119)." This excerpt from John Gardner's Grendel shows one of the many issues he deals with in his satire of man, and that is the issue of the use of violence in society. Gardner shows this throughout the book, but most prominently in chapter eight, in which we learn of the arrival of Hrothulf, Hrothgar's nephew, at Herot.

Hrothgar recognizes the evil in Hrothgar's kingdom. He discusses the problems of the government with an old man known as "Red Horse". The point made in the opening quote is that "Men's violence is chained to good (i.e., to the king): legitimate force that chops off the bread-thief's neck and wipes its axe. Death by the book (Gardner, 114)." This means that the government punishes civilian violence, as well as other crimes, by using the same violence it has prohibited, but viewing it as "legitimate" violence. Hrothulf states that "by violence they lock us in - you and me, old man: subdue our vile, unkingly violence (Gardn...

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