AP English Literature and Composition
December 3, 2012
No Exit for Grendel
In the novel, Grendel, Grendel is a character who adopts Jean Paul Sartre’s idea of an existentialist world. He often changes his view on the subject and on humanity through his interactions with several different characters in the novel. Being born into a world with no guidance, he had to learn everything he knows through observation and the advice of three major characters. All three characters, the Shaper, dragon, and the priest, and their thoughts are eventually rejected by Grendel in his journey to find his essence. The one character however, who Grendel takes the most from is the dragon. Eventually the dragon helps assist him in discovering who he really is and who he is meant to be. Grendel is very misunderstood and mistreated by society which also helps contribute to his varying existentialist’s views. The fact that so many different factors go into changing how Grendel existed shows the inconsistency in his existence. It also displays how he let other factors in the world decide his essence, instead of making his own. Grendel is a character that struggles to find his essence in the world and has a disturbed existence because of the way he lets others impact his life’s choices.
Looking through the eyes of Sartre, Grendel would be considered as living an inauthentic life. This is because over and over again in the story he struggles to find who he is in the world and denies who society “says” he is. In chapter 6 Grendel says, “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone.” (Gardner, 80). This demonstrates how he glories in his power, but realizes that because of this it separates him even more from the world and humanity. Instantly, Grendel recognizes that his condition has not improved, but has instead become much more hopeless as he seeks a place in this world. To have a truly...