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Submitted By xvbedf
Words 1426
Pages 6
Stephanie Newman
English 41
Midterm Essay

Beowulf: Man and Monstrosity

After winning his fight against the monster Grendel, Beowulf stands on rooftop and holds up the demon’s torn-off arm, displaying the mangled limb for all to see. Our hero has just defeated this monster whose attacks on the mead-hall Heorot lasted for years, thereby relieving the Danes of “no small affliction” (832). This victory scene can easily be read as a rally of hope against the grim threat of monstrosity in Beowulf—but that would be to ignore the monstrous nature of the scene itself. There is a certain horror in watching Beowulf revel unabashedly in his slaughter of another creature. As he exhibits Grendel’s “shoulder and arm, his awesome grasp” we are invited to question what “awesome” signifies in this context (835). Are we repulsed by Grendel’s destructive force? And are we impressed by Beowulf’s equally grotesque power? If monstrosity is the insolvable problem in Beowulf, then the question at hand is where it becomes manifest: in monster, or in man. One clear fact about Beowulf’s monsters is that they are pitilessly committed to human destruction. The damage they cause to the Danes and the Geats is immeasurable, and their acts of terror afford impressive description in the text. Whole sections of the epic are dedicated to the monsters’ assaults on humans. From Grendel’s first attack on Heorot, the monster gruesomely kills men by the fistful; he is depicted, in a brutely alliterative line, as “blundering back with the butchered corpses” (124). The monster carries mutilated human bodies in his very arms, and he continues to commit such atrocities for “twelve winters, seasons of woe” (147). His crimes against Heorot’s once-joyous court are thus repeated for an astoundingly long period of time. Even worse, Grendel is insensitive to the suffering he creates and stubborn about…...

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