Grendel Literary Criticism Essay

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“Nihil ex Nihilo, I always say” (Gardner 150). Those are the nihilistic words that Grendel used to profess his belief that life has no purpose. Little did he know, those words would lead to a series of misfortunes that would conclude in his death. John Gardner’s Grendel is a modern work of literature that affirms the importance of human meaning through its downplaying of different philosophical beliefs, which ultimately express that life has no purpose. Gardner begins this modern work with the breakdown of Solipsism; the belief that only the self exists. He does this by taking Grendel, an isolated monster, and having him explore the physical and metaphorical aspects of his surroundings. By doing this Grendel realizes that not only he exists, but so do many other creatures that are capable of performing similar actions to those that he does. He also encounters the Danish people in the forest when…“I opened my eyes and everything was blurry. There were lights all around me, like some weird creatures eyes. They jerked back as I looked. Then voices, speaking words. I found that I understood them: it was my own language, but spoken in a strange way!” (Gardner 23). After this encounter, Grendel feels a very close connection to the Danish people due to their similar language. By negating Solipsism, Gardner becomes one-step closer to proving that we all need purpose in our lives. After Grendel realizes that he is not the only one to exist, he tries to create a meaning for his life. This is where Gardner gets the chance to denounce Existentialism; the belief that life has no inherent meaning but the one that you create for yourself. Grendel’s ambivalent interaction with the mysterious dragon is where he gets the idea that he needs to give meaning to his life. The dragon’s suggestion is to terrorize the Danish people. His reason being that “You improve them, my boy! Can’t

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