Portraying adolescents as false tragic heroes has been a theme explored in literature throughout the twentieth century. In John Gardner’s Grendel, the protagonist Grendel, portrayed as a parentless adolescent seeking guidance, finds happiness in violence. Grendel continually commits the ultimate act of evilness, murder on Hrothgar’s mead hall. Gardner creates a character and an environment in, which the reader must feel sorrow for Grendel, in order to have fulfillment by the end of the resolution. However, Gardner uses Grendel and writing in general as tool to communicate his liberal philosophies to a wider audience making it difficult to weep over Grendel’s death. Grendel is not a misguided youth; he is a monster who willingly takes part in his death by indulging himself in violence.
In Grendel, the protagonist spends his ephemeral life attacking Hrothgar’s mead hall, and Grendel takes the lives of Hrothgar’s men during the raids. When Grendel encounters the dragon, Grendel turns into a barbaric machine, after his self-realization. After the dragon, Grendel begins his contentious ?war? with Hrothgar. The attacks on Hrothgar are essentially a deranged pastime for Grendel. After the attacks, Grendel feels some remorse, although this could merely be a biological reaction to the tyranny. Even if Grendel feels remorse, it is still no excuse to slaughter. If Grendel’s attacks are means of survival, then he must surely realize his death is necessary. Grendel returns to the mead hall repeatedly, even after the scenes of sick compassion. Grendel’s regrets only last long enough for the reader to see another side of him. The side of remorse and regret quickly disappears as he feels the hunger of death again.
Grendel is a three ? dimensional character. At the same time, Grendel can lose his confused frivolous existence and become a bloodthirsty killer. Grendel reflects modern troubled youth. He is lost in a corrupt world and consequently the use of violence is a means of short-term escape. Although we want to see Grendel saved, it is impossible to aid all adolescents in troubled. In addition, if we say Grendel’s acts are justifiable because he lives in terrible world, we are also saying it is justifiable for a drug dealer to deal out drugs. In order to maintain balance in civilization, we must have equal shares of compassion and common sense. Common sense tells us children are not products of their environment. Rather, they must take responsibility for their actions. Common sense tells us punish those who commit crimes.
John Gardner uses Grendel as a platform for his philosophic message of troubled youth lost in modern confusion. Gardner is a product of the turbulent 1960’s. He uses his characters to reflect the period he lives in. During the 1960’s America’s youth felt trapped and mislead in a country at war. Grendel, trapped in Hrothgar’s power movement, becomes a misinformed youth. Throughout the novel, Grendel seems to be more of a tool than a character. It is difficult to relate with Grendel, when his purpose is to push liberal themes in the novel. On July 3, 1974, Gardner told the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, ?All laws are an attempt to domesticate the natural ferocity of the species.? Clearly, Gardner’s anti-government ideals interfere with the storytelling of Grendel. The novel and Grendel lose their tragic nobility throughout this philosophically profound story.
Tragic teenage figures have been popular characters in twentieth century literature. Grendel, who is the protagonist of Grendel, is portrayed as a mislead adolescent, who finds peace in violence. Grendel continually sacks Hrothgar’s mead hall and deprives life from the mead hall. Gardner uses the novel to advocate his radical left wing views on America. Since the novel is so political, the reader cannot help but applaud Grendel’s death at the end of the book. Grendel is not a product of his environment; he is selfish animal, who gets the punishment he deserves, death.