The Symbolism in Beowulf Essay

The Symbolism in Beowulf Essay

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Beowulf is an interesting story in that it has a meaning that is firmly rooted in fantasy creatures based in mythical origins while providing insight into religious ideals and practices of the time. It also speaks of tradition and the struggle of man against things perceived as evil. In this tradition especially, Beowulf is an incredible allegory regarding the struggle of good and evil in the Christian tradition.
In order to consider this as such an allegory, we must define the scope of the struggle. That is to say, what is good and what is evil? In the Christian tradition, there is a fictional figure that creates all the evil in the world. Some people call this figure “Satan” however, that word derives from the Hebrew word meaning “adversary” and can refer to both physical and nonphysical entities. As such, there is no singular evil Satan figure. The name of “Lucifer” used in Isaiah is a reference to a fallen Babylonian King and it is only later, well after the writing of the Bible, that Lucifer is adapted to refer to an evil entity. The term “devil” is just as enigmatic in that it means “accuser” and can stand for any being either divine or mundane. As such, there is no singular evil entity in Christian mythology blamable for evil in the Christian tradition. It must therefore make sense that anything that is evil is that which is against or not of God.
The creation story in Genesis refers to a serpent classically interpreted as an evil entity. If we consider God’s warning that eating fruit from a certain tree would result in death the same day and that the record indicates that the only two humans on the planet did not, we must reconsider the role of the serpent and reevaluate the roles of good and evil and how they apply to ...


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...would not have expanded his consciousness or role in humanity. Grendel, having been perceived as evil, plays a positive role in the development and life of Beowulf much as the serpent did in Genesis for humankind. In both cases, the fruit was consumed in some way, the serpent led to the expansion of the main character or characters, and there is a resolution of the moral matter with the sacrifice of Christ figures.
In this reimagining of the roles of good and evil, we see that there is a similar struggle in both stories. Beowulf mirrors it so closely, in fact, that careful consideration of the information plainly available can cause the lines of good and evil to blur perceptually. It is clear that the author of Beowulf had a deep understanding of the concepts of the Biblical creation story and took great care to recreate the struggle of good and evil in his epic.

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