Guide to John Gardner’s



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Dr. Perdigao

HUM 2051: Civilization I

Fall 2014

Guide to John Gardner’s Grendel



  • Grendel’s role as poet (pp. 8, 15, 29, 80, 149): “Talking, talking, spinning a spell, pale skin of words that closes me in like a coffin” (15).




  • Opening scene: Grendel as compared to ram—issue of “civilized vs. barbaric.” Grendel is humanized, counter to “brute creature”










  • Role of the Shaper (34-53): Changes the world but Grendel calls the entire system of poetry into question, which leads to his deconstruction of the role of the hero with Unferth (82-90)




  • Representation of the dragon (62-74): Metaphysics of the dragon and question of the meaninglessness of life—different counter to Grendel—not necessarily as agon for Beowulf but rather instruments of questioning larger structures outside of the poem










  • Introduction of Beowulf (161-74): Same story with Unferth, revised depiction—Beowulf as footnote in Gardner’s novel. Introduced as “the stranger” rather than by his proper name. Beowulf as cruel, monstrous other to Grendel as redeemed victim?


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