The Metamorphosis of Grendel

The Metamorphosis of Grendel

Length: 1325 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

The Metamorphosis of Grendel



The majority of John Gardner's Grendel revolves around a monster-like character named Grendel. The reader is allowed access to Grendel's subconscious and inner monologue, giving one the sense of a very close relationship with the main character.   This tends to beguile one into sympathizing with him and thinking of him as a protagonist because historically in literature the main character of a novel has always been the "good guy."  However, he proves himself to be very much the anti-hero in the novel many times over.  Grendel's social contact with the world is extremely limited, but his persona is greatly influenced by each brief encounter with another character.


The first major influential character Grendel encounters is The Shaper, a blind old wise man.  The first mention of him is in Chapter 1 when Grendel is attacking Herorot.  While all the town's men, women and children are frozen in awe and horror, The Shaper is able to think quickly and jump out the window of the building he was in and run away.  Grendel admires him for his ability to think and act quickly, as well as for possessing vast knowledge he can only dream of ever acquiring.  Grendel wishes he had the mind of the Shaper and begins to feel jealous, so he subconsciously tries to become more like him.  The Shaper's songs teach Grendel a lot about the humans in the surrounding regions and how they think and live.  Everyone loves and respects him, which makes Grendel want to be like him even more.  As he realizes the Shaper's popularity and goodness, he begins to realize why people don't like him.  Grendel spends a lot of time thinking and realizes the flaws in his character, subconsciously deciding that he doesn't really care if the humans hate him because he isn't a human and doesn't have to live by the same standards or expectations as they do.  He was born a monster, and as a monster he has a job to do: to "frustrate all established order" and terrorize the humans. 


In Chapter 5, we meet the Dragon for the first time.  Prior to seeing the Dragon, Grendel's mother was the only thing he had seen that was more powerful than him.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Metamorphosis of Grendel." 20 Jan 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Grendel and Beowulf Essay

- Living life as a human being is a very difficult task for us humans to accomplish, yet we are doing so. Many works of literature have a character that portrays something on or about life. Three characters of well known novels will carry on with this function. On John Gardners, Grendel the main character Grendel is very confused of the life he is living. He is in search of his purpose in life, what he doesn’t realize at the beginning is his purpose is to be the villain. The humans in the novel are terrified of Grendel because to them he is a beast....   [tags: Epic Poems, Grendel, Anglo-Saxon]

Research Papers
629 words (1.8 pages)

Essay The Humanization of Grendel

- John Gardner’s Grendel is the retelling of the heroic epic poem Beowulf; however, the viewpoint has shifted. Grendel is told from the viewpoint of one of Beowulf’s antagonists and the titular character of Gardner’s work—Grendel. In Grendel, Gardner humanizes Grendel by emphasizing parallels between Grendel’s life and human life. Through Gardner’s reflection of human feelings, human development, and human flaws in Grendel, this seemingly antagonistic, monstrous character becomes understood and made “human.” Grendel exhibits human feelings and characteristics in many ways....   [tags: Humanization, Grendel, John Gardner, ]

Research Papers
1051 words (3 pages)

The Great Change in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Essay

- Although Gregor turned into a bug, the real Metamorphosis occurred before the change and with the whole family. Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis reflects the ideals about industrialization and existentialism during the turn of the century. In the novella, Gregor turns into a bug, and the whole family has to deal with it in different ways. Many characters go through a metamorphosis in the novella. Although the changes may not be physical the changes occurred greatly in Gregor, Mr. Samsa, and Grete....   [tags: The Metamorphosis]

Research Papers
942 words (2.7 pages)

Essay The Meaningless Life of Grendel in John Gardner's Grendel

- The Meaningless Life of Grendel in John Gardner's novel, Grendel   "People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive...." Joseph Campbell made this comment on the search for meaning common to every man's life. His statement implies that what we seem bent on finding is that higher spark for which we would all be willing to live or die; we look for some key equation through which we might tie all of the experiences of our life and feel the satisfaction of action toward a goal, rather than the emptiness which sometimes consumes the activities of our existence....   [tags: Grendel Essays]

Research Papers
2577 words (7.4 pages)

Archetypes in Grendel Essays

- Consistent in literature throughout every era and culture, archetypes represent a recurring image, pattern, or motif mirroring a typical human experience. An idea developed by Carl Jung, archetypes in literature exist as representations reflecting vital perceptions of the human psyche expressing the manner in which individuals experience the world. Using Jung’s concept, writers of all epochs embeds archetypes in structures, characters, and images of their narratives. John Gardner, in his novel Grendel, integrates several of Jung’s archetypes into his epic tale derived from the early story Beowulf....   [tags: Grendel Essays]

Research Papers
545 words (1.6 pages)

Grendel and the Importance of Human Values Essay

- Grendel and the Importance of Human Values In Grendel, by John Gardner, there is considerable disquietude, but there are also moments of pleasure as well. The cause of these contrasting feelings is most often Grendel himself. As he changes from a purposeful and almost kind creature to a very cruel monster that scorns hope, we find ourselves feeling both pleased and upset at different times. In this element, though, lies a much greater purpose than simply good literature - it helps the reader understand the importance of human values....   [tags: Grendel Essays]

Free Essays
755 words (2.2 pages)

The Metemorphosis Essay

- The Metamorphosis The Metamorphosis is a novel written by Kafka Franz and published in 1915. The story is about a travelling sales man by the name Samsa Gregor who wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect. The main characters include Gregor Samsa, Grete Samsa, Mr. Samsa, Mrs. Samsa and Samsa. The theme of change is conspicuous on the novel when Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect. The theme of economic effects on human relationships is also evident when we find that Gregor Samsa is a slave to his family because he is the breadwinner....   [tags: Literary Review ]

Research Papers
1391 words (4 pages)

John Gardner's Grendel as Hero? Essay

- John Gardner's Grendel as Hero. "'I cry, and hug myself, and laugh, letting out salt tears, he he. till I fall down gasping and sobbing."1  With these words the reader is introduced to the "hero" of Gardner's Grendel, and the mood is set for the coming pages. How is one to interpret this ambiguous, melodramatic narrator, whose phrases mix seemingly heartfelt emotional outbursts with witty (if cynical) observations, and ideological musings with ironic commentaries. Perhaps this is what makes Grendel such an extremely engaging narrator....   [tags: Grendel Essays]

Research Papers
2002 words (5.7 pages)

The Metamorphosis Essay

- The Metamorphosis The longer story The Metamorphosis, first published in 1971, was written by Franz Kafka. He was born in Prague in 1883 and lived until 1924, and he has written many other stories along with The Metamorphosis. The Metamorphosis appears to be a fantastic piece. After reading The Metamorphosis, I do believe that there are many similarities between magical realism and fantastic literature. Kafka showed many fantastic issues in The Metamorphosis. While reading The Metamorphosis, I did not feel that it had any magical elements in the story, but had many fantastic elements....   [tags: The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka Literature Essays]

Research Papers
1720 words (4.9 pages)

John Gardner's Grendel Essay

- John Gardner's Grendel The archeologist's eyes combine the view of the telescope and the view of the microscope. He reconstructs the very distant with the help of the very small. - Thornton Wilder These words, uttered by Thornton Wilder regarding his play Our Town express the antithesis of nihilism, a philosophy which stresses the lack of objective truth. Nihilism, as well as existentialism and a host of other philosophies are boldly explored in Grendel, a novel by John Gardner....   [tags: Grendel Essays]

Research Papers
843 words (2.4 pages)

Related Searches

  Grendel was so scared at the site of the huge beast he could barely even speak.  The Dragon is also incredibly smart, and when he starts reading Grendel's mind he becomes even more afraid.  This fear is something Grendel has rarely, if ever felt before, and it makes him realize he is not the most fearsome creature to ever walk the planet.  He tells Grendel that his sole purpose in life is to frustrate all established order and basically exist as the enemy of all humans.  He further explains that humans are constantly trying to get rid of all "evil" and if there was no evil there would be no balance in the universe.  Also, he tells him he is the reason humans create art, poetry, science and religion, and that without him mankind would probably be much less advanced.  This helps Grendel to cast out any doubts he had about the morality of murdering humans and gives him a reason to kill other than self-satisfaction and sport.  


Although Grendel loved his mother, he was extremely annoyed by her overprotectiveness at times.  She is constantly trying to keep him from leaving the cave throughout the novel and when she hugs him she squeezes so hard it hurts him and he has to struggle to get out of her grasp.  In Chapter 2 he views her as a fat, lazy, stupid brute who can't speak English, unlike Grendel.  As she becomes more protective of him, he alienates her more and treats her as more of an animal than a human.  He realizes she is exactly what he does not want to become, and so he starts trying to spend less and less time with her and becomes increasingly human-like.  He becomes more independent as he looks less to his mother for advice and more into himself and his own thoughts.  He frequently sinks into his subconscious and thinks about his life and what everything means.  Whenever he leaves his cave or is returning to his cave he is almost always thinking about what he has just done or is about to do.  This is synonymous with Gardner's ingenious design of the cave itself.  To get into it or out of it, one must pass through an underwater passage through the wall of the cave.  The water is representative of the subconscious and emotion, which Grendel goes into whenever he leaves or enters his home.  Instead of looking to other people for advice, Grendel looks to himself, relying less and less on other characters and becoming more independent.


In his edition of Grendel, Gardner uses dark comedy extensively in order to make the story more entertaining, as well as to criticize humans.  One example of this occurs in Chapter 1 when he is attacking Herorot, when the Shaper is the only human to have the presence of mind to jump out the back window of the meadhall, despite his blindness.  This is meant to poke fun at humans' inherent tendency to freeze up and all but lose their common sense during moments of extreme stress.  Another example of dark humor in the novel comes in Chapter 4 when Grendel runs out into a field and yells out to the villagers "Mercy! Peace!" and they attack him.  They attacked him because they couldn't understand what he was saying and they acted on their instincts.  Here, Gardner is mocking the habit of humans to make judgments of others based on their appearance and also their fear of the unknown and belligerence.  The most memorable instance of dark humor in the book was in Chapter 6 when Unferth was constantly trying to attack Grendel with no success.  In one of their fights, Grendel began throwing apples at him in order to humiliate him and take away some of his pride.  Unferth followed Grendel back to his cave and tried to kill him again.  He knew he had no chance of defeating Grendel, so instead of going home without killing the monster, Unferth wanted to keep his cherished pride and dignity by being killed by him.  Instead, Grendel carried him back to Herorot and set him in front of the meadhall, killing the two guards along the way.  Unferth, like many humans, had too much pride and was willing to risk his life in order to maintain it, which is foolish according to Gardner. In Chapter 9, the author mocks two traits of humans at the same time.  First of all, Grendel becomes bored one day and knocks down eight statues of gods that were arranged in a circular pattern.  This is a not-so-subtle message that is meant to convey the author's discontent with religion and also shows Grendel's nihilism.  About one year after knocking down the statues, on a cold winter night, Grendel hides behind the statue of a god called "The Great Destroyer" and starts talking to the priest who was praying to it, pretending to be the god.  This is meant to satirize the gullibility of many humans and also our reliance on a higher power for guidance.  


Grendel is one of the most developed characters in any story in literary history.  His thoughts, although often conflicting, are incredibly deep by the end of the novel.  After consulting the dragon for advice he begins to think of religion and social order in ways the human characters in the book probably wouldn't ever understand.  In the beginning of the story Grendel was very animal-like and dependant upon his mother, and by the end he had made a vast transformation into a mature, intelligent, independent creature who was on a higher level of thought than most humans.

Return to