Essay #4

Essay #4 - Jonathan Gold Dr. Mary Mar Nihilism and...

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Jonathan Gold November 14, 2005 Dr. Mary Mar Monster Final Essay #4 Nihilism and Existentialism in Grendel Nihilism, as well as existentialism and a host of other philosophies are daringly explored in Grendel, a novel by John Gardner. The reader is allowed access to Grendel's subconscious and inner monologue, giving one the sense of a very close relationship with the main character. This tends to lure one into sympathizing with Grendel and thinking of him as a protagonist because most often in literature the main character of a novel has always been the "good guy". However, Grendel proves himself to be very much the anti- hero in the novel many times over. Grendel's social contact with the world is extremely limited, but his persona is greatly influenced by each brief encounter through other characters. We soon learn to see him as the antagonist. Grendel travels on a journey of self-discovery, eventually becoming a nihilist, only to have his views gallantly disproved by the hero, Beowulf. In the end, Gardner uses Grendel to prove that the wisdom of a meaning greater than one’s self, triumphs over meaningless violence and destruction. While Gardner presents countless philosophies and thoughts in Grendel, the two most prominent are nihilism and existentialism. After leaving his mother's cave, he is introduced to a vast, confusing world. As a defense mechanism against the rest of the universe, Grendel establishes existentialism as his philosophy. To Grendel meaning doesn’t pre-exist, he has to create his own meaning for everything because he all alone. Grendel is initially confused about everything around him, but soon encounters humans, creatures who seem to share a common language and thought, and he begins to sort through his confusion. He tries to decipher meaning out of the humans by watching them. Grendel witnesses the early evolution of Hrothgar's kingdom, watching them
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conquering each other and other kingdoms, quickly expanding into a powerful empire. Grendel’s existence is long, and he is able to see the world over a long period of time thus, his meaning of the world is closer to the truth over a cultures history books would be. This is what causes Grendel to be so frustrated with the Shaper’s song. One of the first influential characters Grendel encounters is the Shaper, a blind old wise man. Grendel admires him for his ability to think and act quickly, as well as for possessing vast knowledge Grendel can only dream of ever acquiring. Grendel is strangely affected by the old man’s lie, for Grendel has himself witnessed the true, savage history of the Danes firsthand. The Shaper’s account has the feeling of truth merely
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Essay #4 - Jonathan Gold Dr. Mary Mar Nihilism and...

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