Grendel Response Journal
In John Gardner’s Grendel, the novel’s namesake is the main character. Grendel is a contradictory and complex character, who evolves through-out the novel. The first few chapters of the novel center mainly around Grendel as a child, where he is still mostly innocent and naive, and could be compared to that of a human child. He seeks love and attention from his mother, just as any child would, and the silence and lack of attention that he receives affects Grendel as he grows older.
When young, both Grendel’s language and thought processes are simple, but more positive than the later Grendel. After his first experience with humans as being stuck in the tree, and attacked by them, (p. 23-27) and then watching the violent, methodical growth of Hrothgar’s kingdom, he grows more angry and more cynical. In chapter five, Grendel meets the dragon.
The dragon is a crucial character of the novel, one which plays a major part in changing Grendel. The dragon is all-knowing and all-seeing, being able to see both back into the future and forward in time. He tells Grendel that he knows he is seeking answers about the Shaper, a character who has confused and saddened Grendel. He tells Grendel that the world is meaningless, and that all things: man, Grendel, the dragon himself, and everything around them, will soon fade away and be replaced. The dragon also explains Grendel’s purpose to him on pages 72 and 73: “... You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves. The exile, the captivity, death they shrink from-the blunt facts of their mortality, their abandonment-that’s what you make them recognize, embrace!...If you withdraw, you’ll instantly be replaced. Brute existents, you know, are a dime a dozen.”
The dragon has a cynical, hopeless view on life from being able to see all that has happened and will happened, but not having the power to change any of it. It has stripped him of his belief of...