Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I am Jason Woodworth,
Raised by Rosie the giver of knowledge
And spawned from the seed of Kevin the cunning.
Where brawn might fail, my brain will make up.
Honor roll for every year, and always making A’s,
It’s no wonder why I’m in the top five
Majestically gifted in violin and music
I can play any piece just from first sight.
I play the drums with daring beats
In a local band, rising in ranks
And we will record a demo the coming December.
Running for miles is my main sport
With soccer and baseball as second and third
I can run three miles in twenty two minutes
And after can still have energy to spare
With the others I may not be the best
But I still can play at a peak performance
And still with all these talents I try to stay
 Meek, humble, and polite to people

Monday, September 27, 2010

Journal 10 - Grendel as the Narrator

            There are many possible reasons why John Gardner chose Grendel to be the narrator of Grendel.  The character Grendel is a monster who is an outcast from Hrothgar’s kingdom, and Gardner tries to write the novel from the view of someone looking at human society from the outside.  While an omniscient third person narrator might be able to accomplish this to some degree, a first person experience shows what Grendel went through as a monster much more elaborately and personally.  Gardner also intended to show various philosophical views through the narration of his novel, and because Grendel is the character that undergoes the most growth mentally, he is the best choice for the narrator.  By using Grendel as the narrator Gardner gets to express the different philosophical views with much more detail and personality as compared to how he would have been able to do it through a third person perspective.

Journal 9 - Anglo Saxon Lords

            Loyalty to one’s lord was one of the most important ideals in Anglo-Saxon culture.  The poems “The Wife’s Lament” and “The Seafarer” reflect this, and the tragedy that one endures when exiled or separated from that lord.  “The Wife’s Lament” reflects this the most directly.  The poem is told by a woman who was exiled from her husband by his family.  She spends the entirety of the poem talking about how she has been exiled and how it is tragic that they must be separated.  “The Seafarer” is a bit less obvious for this topic, as there is no direct mention of a lord.  Thus, it can be thought that the land is, in a sense, his lord.  The narrator talks both about how he has been exiled and how he has spent his life on the sea, thus it can be inferred that he was exiled from the land.  He talks about how miserable it is to have to live on the sea, and thus contributes to the theme of tragedy from being exiled from ones lord.

Journal 7 - Motifs

            While the works of the Anglo-Saxons, such as Beowulf, “The Seafarer,” and “The Wife’s Lament” are very different from each other in terms of story and plot, they all share certain motifs.  One such motif is exile.  In Beowulf, the creature Grendel is exiled by the Scyldings to the cave which he has to live in because of his monstrous nature.  In “The Seafarer,” the narrator/author is exiled from wherever he came from and has to live out his life on the sea.  This is evidenced from the lines 55 through 58: “Who could understand,/In ignorant ease, what we others suffer/As the paths of exile stretch endlessly on?”  And thus this man has spent much of his life on the sea and has grown old and bitter towards life.  The narrator of “The Wife’s Lament” also is exiled, in her case it is by her family.  As evidenced by lines 11 through 13 saying “My husband’s kinsmen plotted secretly/How they might separate us from each other/That we might live in wretchedness apart,” and line 5 which states “I ever suffered grief through banishment.”  This all points to her having been banished from her husband by his family.  Thus, while they may differ in their plots, all three of these stories share a common motif.

Journal 6 - Grendel's Philosophy

          Throughout the novel Grendel, Grendel evolves in his philosophical thinking.  In the beginning of his tale, he displays a somewhat confused view of the world.  Everything seems to enrage him, especially men due to their high spirits that he cannot seem to break.  This is due to the fact that mentally, he is still a child.  In chapter two, he starts to develop the philosophy of a solipsist, deciding that he alone exists, as noted in the quote “I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist”.  This leads him to believe that he is the only one who matters and thus he can do what he pleases. 
However, once he meets the shaper he starts to change.  The shaper brings art, culture, and good spirits to the thanes and it enrages Grendel.  While Grendel does not fully understand why he is enraged so much, it may be because being exposed to the culture of the shaper makes him start to believe that there is a point to living, while he still wants to believe that life is meaningless.
            Grendel’s meeting with the dragon starts to change everything.  The dragon has a very destructive philosophy, as he believes that there is no meaning to anything.  This is also the philosophy of Alfred Whitehead, a man whom Gardner hated.  The dragon convinced Grendel that there was no meaning to anything, excusing him from doing anything helpful to the world, and allowing him to do whatever he wishes.  After this, the shaper’s songs do not have as much of an effect on him because he has the philosophy that nothing matters.  Now his confusion with the shaper makes him fight against the thanes instead of trying to communicate them.
            The next several chapters have to deal with some of the other characters in the novel.  Chapter six deals with Unferth, and because he makes a more drastic and prolonged attempt to defeat him than the other thanes did, Grendel establishes that other people exist, but he views them as his enemies.  Unferth introduces himself as a hero, and explains his whole philosophy that, in short, life does have meaning.  However, he is not able to express this clearly enough, and Grendel dismisses his ideas easily by saying that being a hero is a nuisance, and there is no meaning to it.  Chapter nine introduces Hrothulf, Hrothgar’s nephew.  Hrothulf feels alone in the world and thus seeks out help from his old mentor Red Horse.  He teaches him that, basically, government is evil and the only way to fix it is with violence.  Grendel watches this and notes that even though they might think this, they still have to follow the laws and can ultimately not do anything about it, and even though Hrothulf is a prince, and could potentially do something if he wanted to, neither of them realize this possibility.
            When Beowulf comes along, Grendel begins to feel some fear, and his mother issues him a warning of what might happen.  However, he dismisses it, as his philosophical ideas tell him that nobody else matters or knows anything.  He also feels that he will not remember that his mother is concerned from him, and thus because he will not feel bad for it, it does not matter to him.  Beowulf comes into the story and shatters his beliefs.  At this point, Grendel believes that nothing he does will have consequences to him, nothing can really happen if he doesn’t believe it, and that he is the only one who exists or matters.  When Beowulf inflicted the mortal wound on Grendel, he is forced to believe that other people can have an influence, and the things he do have consequences.  Before he dies, in keeping his nihilistic attitude, he believes that everything is an accident, even his death.

Journal 4 - Themes

            The epic poem Beowulf reveals a lot about the culture of the Anglo-Saxons.  For one thing, it reveals that they lived in great halls which served as their living and dining quarters.  This is noted by their using the word mead-hall, which also serves to show that drinking mead is an important part of their society.  It also shows the heroic code of the time.  For example, Beowulf is the perfect hero of this society; he is strong, courageous, and has a wealth of heroic deeds of which he can boast about.  Warriors also strive to become immortal in the sense that they are remembered through the words of the poets.  Thus they do heroic deeds and boast about them. 
The poem also reveals several themes.  One of these is the importance of identity and immortality.  Every male in the Anglo-Saxon world tries to establish his own identity by doing something to be remembered by, and thus becoming known as himself, not as the relative of some other man.  It also shows the difference between a good warrior and a good king.  As Beowulf progresses, Beowulf goes from being a warrior to being a king, and thus he has to change his values.  A hero has nothing to lose in his own death, and thus they can be reckless, but a king has much to lose and thus he must act more cautiously.

Journal 3 - Grendel's Language

Grendel’s attitude towards language seems to change throughout the novel as he matures through his strength and personality.  In the beginning of the novel his attitude towards it was somewhat confused.  He feels like he is a beast that simply has to borrow the language of the humans, as it chapter four when he swears in the human language and claims that his race isn’t even good enough to be able to curse in.  After his visit with the dragon, however, Grendel starts to become better with language.  In chapter six, Unferth starts to be able to understand what he is saying as the two progress through the battle.  Finally, in the later chapters he becomes good enough with language that he can speak in verse.  This shows a definite maturation in the way he speaks and his attitude towards language.