John Gardner’s Grendel excerpt
Read the excerpt from John Gardner’s novel Grendel and discuss the following questions:
You may be given additional teacher directions ~
1. What is Grendel’s impression of himself as he “plunges” into the mead hall? How do the parenthetical remarks such as “sheer poetry, ah!” emphasize that impression?
2. Describe Grendel’s initial response to Beowulf. What action by Beowulf disturbs Grendel the most? Why is this action so threatening?
3. Beginning with “A meaningless swirl in the stream of time…”most of the italicized text represents Beowulf’s thoughts and words. How is this view of the world essentially different from that of Grendel’s?
4. What does Grendel mean when he says “I will cling to what is true”? What does he think is accidental? How does he feel on the brink of the “nightmare cliff”? What is the meaning of his final words, “So may you all”?
5. Describe Grendel as he is portrayed in this selection? How does the monster here differ from the Grendel of Beowulf in our textbook?
6. How does this account of Grendel’s experience change your view of Beowulf? What does the writer suggest about good and evil? truth and falsehood? reality and illusion?
7. Pick out elements of the writer’s style. How do these elements affect the reader?
8. Find examples of the following in Grendel:
- Hyperbole (exaggeration used to emphasize and idea or to produce a comic effect).
9. A parody imitates or burlesques another, usually serious, work or type of literature, often adding a new insight to the original. Identify the similarities in language and sound patterns between the two selections. What other characteristics of the heroic epic does the writer of Grendel imitate? How are these characteristics exaggerated? What seems to be Gardner’s purpose in parodying the epic?
10. Some critics argue that parodies hinder the reader’s ability to appreciate the truth or the beauty of the original. Others say parody helps the audience understand. Using Grendel and Beowulf as your examples, discuss which argument you agree with here.