Grendel Language Essay

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In Grendel, language is repeatedly shown to be the province of men. All speakers are masculine. The Dragon, the Shaper, Hrothgar, Unferth, and finally Beowulf each offer Grendel a system for understanding the universe and his place in it. The dragon is a nihilist. That is, he believes there is no meaning to life and that all events are nothing more than random accident. The Shaper is a poet. He creates meaning in the world through his songs; the world becomes what he sings. His is the voice of art. Hrothgar is a politician. His world is constructed by the words of treaties and oaths of fealty. His words reveal to Grendel a world plots and counterplots, devoid of morality. Unferth is a hero. He argues that only in heroism does the world have meaning. The words that constitutes a hero's reputation and fame construct his vision of the world. Finally, at the very end of the tale, Beowulf explains to Grendel the cycles of existence: life has meaning because it continues, in spite of death and destruction. Grendel’s mother she also serves to highlight the importance of language in the novel. She communicates only in inarticulate sounds that even Grendel cannot understand, the bone pile she is constantly picking through suggests that those without the ability to communicate are left to scraps of others. Although Grendel’s mother does not possess language, unlike her son she seems to have found some purpose in life: as grendel says “I was, in her eyes, some meaning I could never know and might not care to know.” (chapter 2) Grendel is split into twelve chapters, each linked with one month of the year and one astrological sign. Gardner includes at least one allusion to each sign within its corresponding chapter. Chapter 1, for example, occurs under the sign of Aries, the Ram, and the ram is the creature with whom we find Grendel arguing as the novel opens. Some chapters

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