Friday, October 26, 2012

Journal 3: Grendel's attitude Toward Language

Grendel's Attitude Toward Language

In “Grendel,” Grendel’s language evolves and becomes more and more sophisticated as he gains knowledge and contact with the human world.  In the beginning of the novel, Grendel spends his time observing the humans and he manages to pick up on their linguistic techniques, skills and structure of the human language, turning it into his everyday speech.  The next evolution of Grendel’s language comes from when he is introduced to the Shaper—he develops a respect for the poetic nature of the human language.  Grendel sees the Shaper molding his listeners with his flowery words.  Grendel also finds linguistic style in Unferth, who uses words to persuade the Thanes and his followers. 
Because of Grendel’s encounters with the humans, the reader comes to know that Grendel can speak the human’s language even though he is never actually witnessed him talking to humans.   While observing the humans, Grendel learns of about the power of language, especially from the Shaper.  Grendel realizes that the power that the Shaper has is to tell lies and change history through his fancy words.  Even with his observations about the Shaper and Unferth, Grendel does not acknowledge his own style and advance in language. The reader becomes aware of Grendel’s linguistic developments only through the change in writing style and syntax as he continues his story.  At the same time, the reader realizes that even though he despises the Shaper at times, he is jealous of the Shaper’s linguistic skills and he envies his power and influence.  He also starts to show off his style in chapter six when he refers to himself in poetic third person names like “Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings!”
Towards the end of the novel, Grendel’s use of language becomes more advanced.  An example of this is when Grendel writes an entire chapter, chapter 8, in the form of a play.  Setting a chapter up like a play demonstrates his linguistic skills because Grendel had to set up characters’ speeches and monologues.  In addition, Grendel starts to write in poetry.  The ultimate display of Grendel’s improvement of language, however, is when he speaks with Unferth, who actually is able to converse with Grendel.  This proves that Grendel has evolved so that he could communicate with the humans which is important to Grendel because one thing that he lacked was the ability to communicate, but now he is longer isolated from the world. 

Journal 6: Anglo-Saxon Poetry Themes


Anglo-Saxon Poetry Themes and Techniques

Most Anglo-Saxon works, especially poetry, contain similar motifs, or reoccurring themes. These motifs characterize the people, culture, and the beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon time period. The epic poem Beowulf is about a brave and undefeated hero who travels to another land to slay the beast which has been bothering the area for years. The poems The Seafarer and The Wanderer are slightly different. The Seafarer tells the story of a lonely traveler who has set out to sea in an effort to find his fate and something more than materialistic treasures in the world. Similarly, in The Wanderer, the narrator sets out to sea to find his new life losing his Lord and his loved ones. All three Anglo-Saxon poems share the same motifs of journey, exile, and fate as the main characters of the poem go out alone to find their purpose in life.
                One of the important motifs of Anglo-Saxon literature is the journey, or the traveling to an unknown, foreign place to find one’s purpose. In Beowulf, this idea is seen as Beowulf ventures from his land on his way to Hrothgar’s kingdom to help them battle Grendel. Beowulf left his homeland for a new kingdom in his quest to prove himself. On a similar note, the narrator of The Seafarer describes his endless journey on sea where he realizes that the material attractions on Earth cannot compare to the sea. He reflects upon how when he first ventured out, he knew that “the time for journey would come and my soul/ Called me eagerly out,/” (lines 36-37). The journey motif is also evident in The Wanderer when the speaker journeys out at sea to find himself and his meaning in life after he had lost his lord, family, and friends. In the poem, the narrator remembers when his lord died, he considered himself a “lonely traveler long[ing] for grace” (line 1) who was “Lost and homeless,/ Forced to flee” (lines 20-21). Through the numerous references to travel and quests throughout these Anglo-Saxon poems, one can see that journey was important to the people of that time and had therefore become a key motif.
                Another key motif often expressed in literature of that time period would be the exile of the main characters away from the rest of their society. In Beowulf, for example, Beowulf was a strong and mighty hero who was considered to be stronger and braver than the rest of his peers. This set him apart from the rest of his thanes and he became independent, fighting all of his battles in solidarity. In The Seafarer, the speaker chooses to set off by himself, hoping that through exile on the sea he will be able to find his true purpose in life. The narrator feels more at home and more in touch with himself out on the water which he expresses when he notes that his “heart wanders away,/ [his] should roams with the sea” (lines 58-59). The narrator in The Wanderer achieves his exile through self-outcast resulting from political loyalty. After his lord dies, the narrator grievingly sets out in hopes to find someone to replace the lord in his life. His isolation is recognized when the author notes that “[h]e cuts in the sea, sailing endlessly,/ Aimlessly, in exile” (lines 4-5). Through the poems, it is evident that Anglo-Saxon valued solidarity and isolation of heroes through exile.
                The third, and possibly most important, motif of the time is fate, or the idea that one’s purpose in life is predetermined and inevitable. This belief can be seen in Beowulf as the heroic Beowulf had been fated to beat Grendel and his mother yet lose in a battle with the dragon. Although he seemed to have made his choices all along, as the dragon in Grendel noted, he had no true control over his destiny and everything was simply meant to happen. In The Seafarer, the narrator refers to God and accepts the idea that his fate might be a life out at sea. The speaker succumbs to his destiny when he states that “Fate is stronger/And God mightier than any man’s mind” (lines 115-116). The narrator in The Wanderer feels fated to have lost his lord and now he is in search of something possibly better to replace the ones he lost. He acknowledges this idea when he says that “Fate has opened/ A single port: memory” (lines 5-6). Therefore, the mention of fate in the Anglo-Saxon poems promotes the idea the acceptance of fate leads to success.
                In conclusion, the ideas of journey, exile, and fate were key beliefs in Anglo-Saxon times and were therefore often found in their literature. Heroes were often noted to go on journeys or quests in order to protect or honor their people. Main characters in stories were usually seen isolated in exile, since they were portrayed as different from their peers in one way or another. Furthermore, one’s fate was often thought to be predetermined and someone of that time focused on living up to his or her destiny. These main ideas show the significance of such beliefs to the Anglo-Saxon people and how it shaped their culture. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Journal 2: Beowulf's Grendel Character Anaylsis


Since the beginning of time, wherever there is good, there must also be evil. Consequently, all stories about an epic hero contain a monster of some sort that symbolizes everything bad in the world. In the ancient poem, Beowulf, an epic hero is forced to save his threatened community by battling and defeating a total of three monsters. One of these monsters is the character Grendel, who had previously terrorized citizens of the area for many years. His attacks had become routine, and the king, Hrothgar, began to take drastic measures in order to defeat the monster for good. Throughout the epic poem, Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, the character of Grendel is portrayed as ruthless and malevolent. However, many aspects of the story point to the conclusion that Grendel may not be to blame completely for his tormenting behavior.  Throughout Beowulf, an anonymous author characterizes the monster Grendel through his actions, his motives, and the way he is perceived by the people.
As the poem Beowulf begins, readers can immediately see that the image that will be given to the character of Grendel throughout the entire story is the role of the antagonist. Grendel receives a reputation for being such a horrid monster based on his actions.  His relentless murders and nonchalant raids make him seem like a cold-blooded killer with an unquenchable thirst for blood.  The poem opens by stating, “…A powerful monster, living down/in the darkness, growled in pain…” (Raffel 1-2). These lines foreshadow the presence of an evil being in the story although readers are not yet introduced to the actual character. Soon after this grim opening, however, a direct statement is made to ensure that readers realize the demonic nature of the monster Grendel. “So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall/Till the monster stirred, that demon, that fiend/Grendel, who haunted the moors” (Raffel 15-17). Grendel had a history for such horrendous actions, noted as having “haunted the moors” (Raffel 17) and making “his home in a hell” (Raffel 18).  Hrothgar’s men, along with people from all over the European area, had learned to live in fear of Grendel, never knowing when or where he may strike next.  Everyone knew that Grendel had no sympathy and attacked and murdered whoever was bothering him at the moment.  Grendel’s first astonishing move in Beowulf, however, was the invasion of the mead-hall.  In his foray to Herot, Grendel “snatched up thirty men, smashed them” (Raffel 37) and “ran out with their bodies,/The blood dripping behind him” (Raffel 38-39).  In this venture, Grendel showed no remorse for violently murdering a whole group of men, who lay innocently “sleeping” in the mead-hall.  As a result, Grendel is seen as an unforgiving, relentless murderer and is described as “Killing as often as he could, coming / Alone, bloodthirsty and horrible” (Raffel 80-81) and “bearing God’s hatred, / Grendel came, hoping to kill / Anyone he could trap on this trip to high Herot” (Raffel 393-395).  Even yet, the reader learns more about Grendel’s character in his final battle with Beowulf.  Although Beowulf would win the battle in the end, it was not without a struggle, finding out that Grendel was stronger than any human, for “their points/Could not hurt him, the sharpest and hardest iron/Could not scratch at his skin” (Raffel 481-483).  Here, the reader learns of the almost supernatural powers that Grendel possesses.  This fact makes the people even more afraid since his unworldly strength makes him even more dangerous.  Through these actions, the reader can understand how Grendel is a horrendous, uncontrollable fiend with no sympathy or second thoughts for the victims of his wrath.
In addition to his spiteful actions, Grendel’s evil character can be explained by his motives for such awful doings.  Grendel’s first excuse for his behavior is his natural disposition to be evil.  The author claims that Grendel “was spawned in that slime” (Raffel 19), implying that it was purely instinct for Grendel to do such evil things.  This reason insists that, since it was Grendel’s nature to kill and attack, it had become his way of life; he knew nothing else.  He never knew what it was to love or to be loved, not even by God himself.  Therefore, it seemed as if Grendel could have been born without a heart or a conscience at all.  Furthermore, the author points out that Grendel was “conceived by a pair of those monsters born/Of Cain” (Raffel 20-21).  Grendel’s background hints that it was simply in Grendel’s blood to be a killer and it was a natural inclination for Grendel to be evil.  This is a direct allusion to the book of Genesis in the Bible, the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. According to the book of Genesis, Cain killed Abel out of jealousy, becoming the first murderer in human history. This aspect of jealousy carries over into the monster Grendel, as his aggressiveness towards the Danes may be the effect of jealousy of their lineage and way of life. An additional logical explanation for Grendel’s actions is his resentment towards society.  As stated, Grendel was “banished/by God” (Raffel 21-22) and the “exile was bitter” (Raffel 24) since he was “shut away from men” (Raffel 25).  Since the beginning of his life, Grendel was forced to live away from the rest of society in the swampland, simply because of his origins.  This continuously growing resentment towards Hrothgar’s people in particular fuels Grendel’s hatred and evil actions.  This prompts the idea that Grendel is a character only longing to be accepted into the realm of human society and may just be confused on how to do so. In these typical explanations, the author attempts to explain reasons for evil in the world through Grendel's own motives.
Finally, and probably most important, the people's reactions towards Grendel demonstrate the role he plays in his society.  The people’s initial reaction to Grendel was to be completely fearful of this supernatural and unforgiving monster.  “Hrothgar’s men lived happy” (Raffel 15) until they were aware that Grendel was on his way to destroy their peace.  In addition, no other warrior was brave enough to battle Grendel except for Beowulf, who is noted as being stronger than his peers.  But although the people generally feared Grendel, there was also a sense of respect for such a “powerful monster”(Raffel 1).  With his supernatural strength and abilities, Grendel is esteemed for being such a worthy opponent in battle.  He is undefeatable at first, which makes him all the more dangerous and threatening, but respected at the same time.  Above all else, however, the people rejoice at Grendel’s death.  When Beowulf had finally defeated Grendel, he had “ended the grief, the sorrow, and the suffering” (Raffel 512) of the Geats.  With Grendel gone, society finally felt a sense of safety and happiness.  Grendel fits the archetype of the evil monster, especially because of the way he is perceived and rejected by the general public of his society.
Throughout the epic poem Beowulf, Grendel is possibly the most memorable character present. His dark and evil intentions are those far beyond that of many antagonistic characters throughout literature. No one knows exactly whether Grendel’s malice is to be blamed on his nature, his lineage, or both. Grendel commits many murderous actions that reveal his blood-thirsty nature.  In addition, the author includes information about his motives, possibly a natural inclination or a growing resentment.  Finally, the people’s reactions to the creature ultimately decide what role Grendel plays in his society.  By creating such a scary creature of evil, the author of Beowulf attempts to explain the evil in the world and the reasons for it.

Journal 10: Grendel as a Narrator


In John Gardner’s Grendel, Gardner appointed Grendel to be the narrator. In Beouwulf, and Grendel, the humans depict Grendel as an evil-being, something demonic, and not from the heavens; but as we see in the book Grendel, Grendel is shown to be kind-hearted, na├»ve, a slightly confused. This point of view/narration reveals a side of Grendel that many readers would not have expected. By using Grendel as a narrator, Gardner allows the readers to get a view into a new world—Grendel’s mind. Gardner’s narrative choice is one of the best ways to get into character, as well as, get to understand a character without having to go through a second party. Throughout the story-line we see the growth of Grendel as a narrator and monstrous-human towards the beginning we see his fears and insecurities; the ram, his cries to the sky and animals around the forest.  We also see his reasoning for his random murders, his belief that humans that do not appreciate the life they’ve been given can be given a different alternative as dinner.  We really get to see behind the scenes in Grendel’s life, we get to view his philosophies and life.  We question why Gardner uses Grendel as the narrator and not some other character in the story, but who else can tell the story of Grendel, then Grendel himself.  Nobody but Grendel would be able to capture the emotional and psychological parts of Grendel, therefore making Grendel the narrator creates a greater advantage to understanding the story and the reasons behind some of Grendel’s actions. 
Because Grendel is a monster, the way he speaks to use is affected; in the beginning of the story, we see him inexperience. He yells and moans; words he does not quite understand, he imitates the language of the humans not knowing that no one understands him but himself.  We also see, in the beginning, the way he kills and preys on human life but towards the end, we see how he spares life instead of taking them. He now understands and has grown as a narrator ans as a “person”. He bings to put thought into his raids—kiilling those who pretends to be “heroic” with the exception of Unferth. Grendel spares Unferth’s life as mockery to the term hero; Grendel now understands Unferth’s true wants and to fool with him more he does not let Unferth when battles, he defeats Unferth mentally as opposed to physically knowing that Unferth just wants the title of hero.  We also see how he spares Wealtheow’s life only because he gained knowledge from the dragon; he learned the significance people and things have to life and the earth.  He sees Wealtheow as a “creator,” someone who brings life into the world, just as his mother did and chooses to spare her life as well knowing that if he were to end her life he would be ending more than one.  Grendel’s being a monster of course changes the way the book is written, instead of being written in the eyes and mind of a human it is written in the mind of something/someone mimicking a human which causes Grendel’s language to evolve. Grendel is someone who is trying to adapt to the styles, habits, ways of a human which makes the way the story is told and written much different than a reader is intended to know and/or understand.

Journal 8: Grendel as a Parody


A parody is defined as an imitation of a work of literature, art, or music for amusement or instruction. A parody does not have to be a mockery of an original piece but it almost always is. “Grendel” is a parody of “Beowulf” because it is the story “Beowulf” told in Grendel’s point of view. Although, Grendel is narrating “Grendel,” all of the major events and details are the same. Grendel is still the monster destroying Hrothgar’s mead-hall, just as in “Beowulf”. Hrothgar is still the king of his mead-hall, except the locations are different. In “Grendel”, the location of Hrothgar’s mead-hall is Hart, and in “Beowulf”, the location of the mead-hall is Herot. Also, Grendel’s mother, Unferth, and a character resembling Beowulf are present. A scene that connects “Grendel’s” depiction of Grendel and “Beowulf’s” depiction of Grendel is the origin of the monster. The Shaper tells us that, in chapter four of “Grendel,” that Grendel’s origin was related to the curse put on Cain, by God, for killing his brother Abel. This same scenario is stated in the beginning of the poem “Beowulf”. Another similarity of “Grendel” and “Beowulf” is the twelve year war between Hrothgar and Grendel.  “Grendel” can also be considered a parody because of Gardner’s use modern terms and gestures that were not even thought of around the time Beowulf was written. For example, Grendel uses “curse” words to express himself—not cursed words. While swear words were most likely used in Anglo-Saxon times, it is doubtless that the words were different. “I make a face, uplift a defiant middle finger, and give an obscene little kick” (6). It is very doubtful that the “middle finger” gesture was used in Anglo-Saxon times as it is used today—it may have been a pinky, for example.   It can be seen that “Grendel” is a mocking of “Beowulf.”
“Grendel” is also a parody because it gives the background information of the Grendel character in “Beowulf”, who we do not learn much about. While the “Grendel” uses lines and events from the epic, the author, John Gardner, uses unrelated events that precede the events told in Beowulf. In “Beowulf” we see the heroism of an Anglo-Saxon man, the ways of a community that should be and that has been portrayed in poems and song.  Contrastingly, in “Grendel” we see the truth—how heroism is just the need of a man to be something more than just a man.  We see the promiscuity of women.  We see how a community supposedly built on just rules, fairness, loyalty, generosity, and familiarity is complete opposite. Grendel makes fun of that by satirically reenacting the ways of the Anglo-Saxon community to make a mockery of them.  Grendel mocks the heroism or Unferth.  In the poem “Beowulf,” we only see the heroism behind the Anglo-Saxon community and how Beowulf simply defeated Grendel; we never see who Grendel is, why he fights Grendel, or Grendel’s reason for the murders, we only see Beowulf and his sidekicks attacking various monsters proclaiming the ways of a hero.  The changes to the original story “Beowulf” makes “Grendel” by John Gardner  a parody. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Anglo-Saxon Boast

I, Micquel Downs, was born in the grueling June of 1996.
I am the daughter of a hope-giver
And a spreader of the word.
I am the sister of the sky-candle
My family hails from the breaker of trees.
My mother makes marvelous mouthwatering meals.
I am a delightful, delicate doll who yearns for mind’s-worth.
I help you thanes interpret your feelings.
Your soul-performance steadily severely succumbs to my superiority3.
Bestowed with brains, beauty, and belief,
I reign supreme in the church-house competitions.
I am a stellar softball statistical genius,
Recording strikes and bases ran.
Many cringe when they see me
They lest when I walk up to the five-sided figure
I hit the ball into the blue blanket with hit dusk;
Away, away the ball flies.
I shall be admitted to Johns Hopkins school-house
Where the collective-almighty attend.
Year by year I am called up by the dean,
To stand up and learn and be supreme.
Many will tell tales of my skill in battle,
I can even ride side saddle on horses.
Master of the art of doing my make-up,
When I’m done they look with the eyes of a pup.
My achievements outweigh those of the majority.
Hail me as I continue to conquer.

Anglo-Saxon Riddles

Riddle 1:
Three lookers have I,
Lined one above another.
They give thanes direction.
No color-looker is like the other.

The first is colored like red clay.
Another is colored like the Earth.
The last is the symbol of dying love,
At the opposite end of birth.

Sometimes I’m broken, battered, believed unimportant,
Whether the world-candle is lit, dimmed, or out.
I’m necessary so box-cart drivers can be safe.
Operators can also stay on their route.

Riddle 2:
I march across 32 stone-guards,
Who are lined up by the number of qualities of love
As described by the apostle Paul.                                    
I’m amazed my hair-bones don’t break
For the semi-circle formed is unbreakable.
I continue in a circular path across them
While my knight dissipates to fight of the enemy.
I push and sweep across the stone-guards as
I help win the battle against germ-visitors.
My companion continues clearing the enemy
While scraps of blue blankets cleanse me of my companions trace.

 Riddle 3:
I am inviting and intriguing to intelligent people.
Vivid colors come alive and are constantly moving.
Enlightenment-seekers enjoy my entirety,
But a multitude of malcontent-inhabitants do not understand thy meaning.
Always observant and organized because I have a specific order,
My health-attendee welcomes all knowledge-seekers into my house.
I inhabit an information-house where many are impressed.