Grendel Is Not Necessarily A Monster

The epic poem Beowulf portrays a story about a hero, Beowulf, fighting several monsters, including Grendel and his mother, and a dragon that eventually kills him. Grendel, a novel by John Gardner, describes situations that led Grendel to become who he is in Beowulf and helps readers understand the motives behind his behaviors. Some might argue that the monster is Grendel; however, after reading both texts, I argue that Grendel is not necessarily a monster. Instead, humans are the real monsters in the texts.

Looking back at the text, especially from Beowulf, Grendel, however, did qualify as being a monster. Beowulf portrays Grendel as someone violent and brutal who kills and slaughters everyone he encounters (1). Grendel lives in the land of the Spear-Danes and attacks King Hrothgar’s land every evening and scares people. After hearing Grendel’s story, Beowulf decides to help Hrothgar fight and eliminate this problem. Though powerful and takes many people’s lives, Grendel is still being captured by Beowulf, the great hero in the poem. Several quotes from Beowulf describe the violence of Grendel:

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Nor did the creature keep him waiting

but struck suddenly and started in;

he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench,

bit into his bone-lapping, bolted down his blood

and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body

utterly lifeless, eaten up

hand and foot. (1, p738-744)

From this quote, we could know that Grendel is a cannibal. (If we assume he is a human-like creature) His murders are often associated with consuming his victims and turning their flesh into his own. No one could do such a thing unless he is a monster, and no one is sympathetic to him when he is caught and killed by Beowulf. It is reasonable to conclude that Grendel is defined as a monster.

However, through Grendel’s perspective, as John Gardner writes in his book Grendel, his actions are one consequence, the reflection of human actions. John Gardner’s book provides readers with the motivation and incentives behind Grendel’s violent actions in Beowulf. Throughout the novel Grendel, Grendel sees how people behave, and he keeps a record of the behaviors (1). We could infer from texts that Grendel has some relationship with humans, and Grendel’s ancestries even have their language. But they stopped speaking their language, making Grendel incapable of speaking. Rather than becoming close to humans, Grendel has become more and more distant from humans: humans do not consider Grendel as one of their own. On the other hand, Grendel tries to interact with people but fails every single time.

And then he cries: “Why can’t I have someone to talk to?” Grendel is lonely because he is not quite human and too sensitive and thoughtful to be a cave dweller or any other creature. Grendel’s isolation seems inexplicable until he hears the Shaper. The Shaper tells Grendel that his ancestors split the world between darkness and light, and Grendel belongs to the dark side, a terrible race that God cursed. Therefore, we can find a reason why Grendel is doomed to be lonely: he had a wicked ancestor. Gardner writes that Grendel can think, feel, and reason. Since the Shaper has told Grendel that he is doomed to be a villain, Grendel feels he is doomed to be bad. It explains the reasons for all the destructions Grendel has done in Beowulf. Grendel may eat people, but he is also a victim of humans. He constantly suffers loneliness and the burden of being hated. And the way he reacts to these is by being violent and destructive.

If we take a closer look at the great hero Beowulf, we might find some disturbing facts about him that make him indifferent to Grendel. Beowulf, just like Grendel, is somewhat isolated. He arrives in Denmark as a foreigner without permission. He is raised by his uncle when his father is banished for feuding with others. Like Grendel, Beowulf likes to fight barehanded, even though the monsters he is facing seem much stronger than him. Grendel’s actions respond to prolonged isolation, but Beowulf’s response to losses is more disturbing. When Beowulf speaks to King Hrothgar, he says: It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. We cannot see a clear difference between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother since both of their reaction to losses are to revenge. And even when Beowulf is about to die in the fight with the Dragon, he still thinks about the treasures he gained from the fight instead of doing something memorable.

Certainly, if we only look at Beowulf alone, Grendel is a monster. But if we look at Beowulf and Grendel together, we might consider humans, in both books, the real monsters.


  1. Heaney S. Beowulf [Internet]. Google Books. Faber & Faber; 2009 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from:

The Immense Pain Caused By The Progressive Era

Slavery, racism, rape, and abuse are all sad, real things that have happened and still happen today. Many people have suffered while others have looked the other way. This was the case during the Progressive Era. The people of that time period turned a blind eye by disregarding inappropriate behavior. Ironically, it’s called the “Progressive Era.” If it were truly progressive, there wouldn’t have been so much struggle and heartbreak. Children would not have been put in harm’s way, and black women would have been treated fairly regardless of their age, gender, or skin color. The worst aspects of the Progressive Era were the harmful working conditions and the discriminatory practices towards black women.

The harmful working conditions were one of the most adverse aspects of the Progressive Era. This was because children had to work for long periods, most days of the week. According to the “Child Labor and John Spargo” article by Brittany Hunter, children worked 10 to 12 hours per day, six days a week (Scoop.It!.com). If children are working 10 to 12 hours per day, they’re missing valuable school time. Not only is their education being lost, but they’re also working excessively, which could cause stress and anxiety. For example, children attending school every day for ten months from 7:35 to 4:37 on weekdays is too long and stressful. Children should not have to be in school for more than six hours a day.

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The dangerous environment that the children were subjected to played a significant role in why child labor was one of the worst aspects of that era. The Texas Education Agency discussed this issue, noting that “Out of the 20,000 child labor-related accidents each year, approximately 2% resulted in the death of the child and 20% resulted in the child being disabled for life” ( These children were working in mills and factories barehanded, without any protection. For example, coal miners working in tunnels are in a dangerous situation because of dust, rodents, etc. Child labor is wrong, and the lives of those children who were lost shall forever be mourned!

Another negative aspect of the Progressive Era was the discriminatory practices towards black women. This was a negative aspect because black women weren’t treated as equally as men. Allison Lange points out that the 14th amendment only allowed men to vote ( This wasn’t fair because the government was being sexist towards women when everyone is supposed to be equal. This precipitated a long and arduous fight for women’s rights, which continues to this day. Consider the case of the household burden placed on women.

They’re expected to cook, clean, and babysit while the men work harder jobs outside their homes. Not only did Black women have to fight for the right to vote, but they also faced judgment from different races. Judith McDonough acknowledges the judgment Black women had to face: “Nevertheless, the movement remained largely segregated because white women feared alienating the South, and many shared the prejudicial attitudes of the time” ( This shows that instead of the whites trying to find common ground, they disregarded the Black women because of their color. All the women had the same common goal but instead of working together, judgment was in play. In other words, the theme “don’t judge a book by its cover” wasn’t taken seriously during this time period because Blacks were judged by the color of their skin. The color of their skin can’t be changed and it should never have to disadvantage them in life.

On the other hand, many people feel that the Progressive Era was effective because children learned how to work hard at a young age. They feel this way because children picked up life skills from the work they did that could become beneficial to them later in life. The “Children in the Progressive-Era America” article discusses how children were expected to wash clothes, fetch water, and cook meals during their time in forced labor ( Those skills would be useful to children because, in order to stay clean, they would need to know how to wash clothes and fetch water, and they would need to know how to cook in order to survive. It would make them stronger overall, and if any tragedy were to happen in these children’s lives, they would know how to fend for themselves.

Furthermore, living in a forest requires great life skills, and those children would have a better chance of surviving than most people would. Although it’s true that children learned life skills at a young age, they weren’t receiving the education they needed. Brittany Hunter implies that “580,000 children between ages 10 to 14 couldn’t read or write” (Scoop.It!). The children may have been picking up life skills, but how far could they get if most of them couldn’t read or write? You need to read for everything nowadays, and those children didn’t know how because they were forced to work. In the book by Russell Freedom, it also talks about how children were promised a future of illiteracy because they weren’t in school (p.2). As a matter of fact, those kids in the Progressive Era could be compared to school dropouts. This clearly shows that the Progressive Era wasn’t effective because having life skills isn’t enough if children can’t read or write.

In summary, the Progressive Era caused more harm than good. For one thing, children were overworked and victims of dangerous activities. Additionally, black women were looked down upon and treated unfairly. Regardless of these negatives, people still think of the Progressive Era positively, as children picked up life skills which increased their survival chances. However, this involved more time spent away from school, which wasn’t beneficial for the children’s education. Now that we’ve unveiled the truth about the Progressive Era, everyone should see this as an opportunity to treat everyone fairly to prevent history from repeating itself.

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