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In the article “Alas, Poor Grendel,” Robert L. Chapman analyzes the author of Beowulf and the author’s beliefs based on his depiction of Grendel in the poem. By drawing his own conclusions and using other sources for support, Chapman points out that the poet expresses sympathy toward Grendel, despite all the harsh terms used for his description. He uses numerous phrases and makes it clear that Grendel is doomed and destined to a sad, miserable, evil life. He knew that the monster was cursed at birth due to being Cain’s descendant; however, that is not the monster’s fault. Grendel was who he was because of his nature, and not because of his will, therefore making him the victim of God. Despite all his murders, Grendel technically hasn’t committed a sin because he never went against his destiny or the will of God. The author of the poem depicted compassion and sympathy for Grendel in his work because he thought this fate to be unfair, thereby demonstrating his “incomplete commitment to the doctrine of Providence, and that it betokens not a naive orthodoxy but a disingenuous reservation” (Chapman 335). It is unclear how a self-conscious Christian could have felt compassion for such a demonic beast. The poet either had a problem realizing Grendel, had two contrasting emotions and went back and forth between them, which left the imprint on his work, or there was more than one author. However, it is also clear that the poet is still mainly concerned with Beowulf (the human), and possibly adjusted Grendel into a suitable opponent, since the monster was a new concept at the time. Finally, Chapman concludes that the poet was a “Christian not quite purged of pagan self-reliance” (337) or a “Christian tingles with Pelagianism” (337) whose sympathy for Grendel arises from unrestricted and unsubmissive human will.
I find it very interesting that you can talk about someone’s religion, morals, and beliefs based on their relation towards a character they created. By analyzing the time period when the poet wrote his work, Chapman is able to interpret the feelings expressed toward Grendel and where they originated from. However, I don’t agree with Chapman when he proposes the idea that the poet thought Grendel’s fate was unfair. Although there are contrasting feeligs formed towards Grendel, I believe that the purpose of that was to make the monster more interesting. Although the author does refer to Grendel as “demon” (133), “killer of souls” (177), “God-cursed brute” (121), and other strong terms, he does make it clear that Grendel was cursed at birth. By adding humane characteristics to Grendel, I think the monster becomes even more evil because he understands what he’s doing and the consequences of his actions. However, Grendel’s purpose in life is to fight heroes, and if he stops his demilitions, he will lose his purpose. In my opinion Grendel’s decision to choose himself over lives of many people is truly evil and selfshish. Therefore, the potential choices versus the choices made by Grendel demonstrate his true monstrousity, which I believe is what the author was trying to depict. As mentioned in the article, the author mainly sympothises Beowulf, who is a hero not like any other. Therefore, he needed a monster that would be not like any other. By showing Grendel’s selfishness, the author relates him closer to humans and gives him dimension, which makes him a worthy enemy.
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