Throughout the novel Grendel, Grendel makes numerous generalizations about evil, man, and life. At one point he says, “one evil deed missed is a loss for all eternity” (146). Grendel’s environment helps to justify this statement greatly throughout the novel. The nihilistic and existential philosophy that Grendel learns from the Dragon helps Grendel to make and believe in his own statement. The Dragon even says that life is just, “A brief pulsation in the black hole of eternity” (73). This means that any evil deed that may have gone undone or missed is lost for all eternity because Grendel’s lifetime is only a spec of dust, in the eternity of time. Also the Dragon tells Grendel that Grendel is just a “Brute Existence [...] a a dime a dozen” against man kind (74). This shows that Grendel’s task in life is to but heads with mankind and do evil against them. If he misses a chance to commit an evil deed against man, he will never have that chance again and therefore mankind will go uncontested and able to change differently.
This adds to Gardner’s style of making Grendel tragic because it shows how the environment and characters in the novel have shaped Grendel into the existentialist that he becomes. At the beginning of the novel Grendel is an innocent and happy being that likes his power to intimidate other creatures. As the novel goes on, however, events that occur in his life drive him into a mindset of existentialism. If it weren’t for the bull or the Dragon, Grendel could still be a happy and joyful being. He cannot though, because the mindless and mechanical cycle of life shaped him into an existential being that can only find joy in death.