Brian Wilkie and James Hurt in Literature of the Western World discuss what is perhaps the overriding or central conflict in the poem Beowulf, namely the struggle between good and evil, and how the monsters are representative of the evil side:
Ker was answered in 1936 by the critic and novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, who argued that “the monsters are not an inexplicable blunder of taste; they are essential, fundamentally allied to the underlying ideas of the poem, which give it its lofty tone and high seriousness.” For Tolkien, the monsters were symbolic of eternal forces of evil while remaining real monsters (1273).
The numerous conflicts within Beowulf are both external and internal. Conflict is how one describes the relationship between the protagonist and antagonist in a literary work (Abrams 225). There is also another type of conflict which Clark describes below and which takes place within the mind and soul of a given character.
George Clark in “The Hero and the Theme” make reference to an interior conflict within the Beowulf hero himself, and how the hero appears to lose this conflict:
Although a strong critical movement followed Klaeber in taking Beowulf as a Christian hero or even Christ figure, the most numerous and influential body of postwar critics, including Margaret Goldsmith (1960, 1962, 1970), read the poem as faulting the hero for moral filures according to one or another Christian standard of judgment (see also Bolton 1978). The poem became a neo-Aritotelian tragedy in which the hero’s flaw could be identified as a sin, greed, or pride (279).
H. L. Rogers in “Beowulf’s Three Great Fights” expresses his opinion as a literary critic regard...
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...is B. Gummere. http://wiretap.area.com/ftp.items/Library/Classic/beowulf.txt
George Clark in “The Hero and the Theme” In A Beowulf Handbook, edited by Robert Bjork and John D. Niles. Lincoln, Nebraska: Uiversity of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Clover, Carol F. “The Unferth Episode.” In The Beowulf Reader, edited by Peter S. Baker. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000.
Ogilvy, J.D.A. and Donald C. Baker. “Beowulf’s Heroic Death.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.
Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
Rogers, H. L. “Beowulf’s Three Great Fights.” In An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, edited by Lewis E. Nicholson. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.
Wilkie, Brian and James Hurt, editors. “Beowulf.” In Literature of the Western World. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.
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