Beowulf @ Ellis

Cheryl S.

Analysis of Righteousness vs. Evil in a Collage

Beowulf is a poem that centers on numerous themes such as generosity, righteousness, evil, religion, friendship, strength, and bravery. The main character Beowulf displays, and lives by these values throughout the poem, making him a symbol of hope to the powerless, frightened Danes. For my Beowulf project I took the significant themes of the poem, both evil and righteousness and fused them into a collage. This collage ultimately compares and contrasts the values of Beowulf, the Danes, and the Geats. It also shows the darker side of the poem with Grendel, his mother, and the dragon, along with their values of secrets, death, and greed.
In the Geat society two of the more important values are generosity (ring giving) and bravery. In the poem, ring giving is shown in both the societies of the Danes and the Geats. Wulfgar refers to Hrothgar as “our giver of bright rings” (351). The generosity that the wise Hrothgar and the bold Beowulf present to their thanes is clearly shown in the images of the golden, jeweled rings both around the center of the piece, and in the upper left hand corner to the left of the knight in armor’s head. Gold shows the fact that the rings are valuable and their roundness shows that friendship is everlasting; because there is no end. In the poem when anything made of gold is mentioned, normally the word “glittering” is added before or after. The glittering in the rings and in the other gold shows the fact that it shines with light, which Grendel, his mother, and the dragon could never understand. That light could possibly mean God is there, overpowering the darkness and promoting generosity.
In the poem, God is not physically with Beowulf, but He is with him spiritually through his battles. To represent the presence of God in the collage the image in the center of the mountains seems fitting. God and the mountains are similar to each other in many different ways. The mountains are high, solid forms that are beautiful and protect towns and villages from violent storms. However, they can also cause accidents to occur. For example rough edges may cause a person to slip and fall to his or her death. The ways that God is solid is when he plans an event to happen, it will happen. God stands firm with His decisions. God lives in heaven which is high in the sky, seeming to be unreachable to humans only after they have lived a noble life and die. Mountains also give a sense of beauty, power, and strength.  
At the end of the poem it was Beowulf’s bravery that defeated the greedy dragon, Grendel’s mother, and primarily Grendel. In fitt ten just as Beowulf is preparing to fight against Grendel in Herot the narrator says “Beowulf was ready, from with our Lord’s high favor and his own bold courage and strength” (669). The shiny, silver knight in the center of the collage represents Beowulf’s courage to battle the dragon without help from his men. The knight clutches as shield just as Beowulf did when the dragon’s flickering flames threaten to overpower his strength. To the left of the knight is a slice of chain mail that would be the equivalent of the mail that Beowulf wore while he fought Grendel’s mother. The links individually are not of any use; however woven delicately together they form a powerful bond strong enough to withstand even the strength of evil, which in Beowulf many thought to be impossible.
Grendel’s home was through a forest which in the poem is described as being a “shadowy waste land” (1405). The image on the bottom right depicts a swamp that is shadowy and foggy. The loose limbs of the trees rising from the mysterious waters are black and do not appear to be alive, instead of having brown trunks and sprouting green leafs. The water in the swamp is not crystal clear, but green and foggy, symbolizing that it is not natural, just as Grendel’s lake did not have the features of a healthy, normal body of water coming from nature. It is not clear to the eye what lurks at the bottom. This picture is an appropriate image to represent the unrest and abnormality of the waters in Grendel’s secret lake.
In Beowulf, Grendel represents the event of death, because in the night he sneaks into Herot and kills Hrothgar’s thanes and Beowulf men.Grendel becomes the deliver of death. To show this theme of Grendel delivering death to the Danes along with the Geats pictures of bones are appropriate images because they show the what humans look a like long after death. The simple picture of a skull or human bones instills a sense of fear in human being, even though logically there is no reason to be afraid of skeletons. On the left hand side of the collage, in the center is a picture of a skeleton, residing in a shallow, natural grave. The skeleton represents death as well as the fear of dying, which only toward the end of his heroic challenges did honorable Beowulf exhibit. To the right of that image is a representation of what Grendel’s mother could possibly have looked like. Giving the fact that Grendel’s mother lived at the bottom of a lake, this picture is fitting. The creature is in has slimy skin, short fins, and a row of long, needle sharp teeth that it uses to shred its’ feeble, hopeless prey. From living for so long at the bottom of a dark lake it is easy to assume that Grendel’s mother must possess fish-like features as well as character. She was supposed to look as crazy and frightening as possible.
Gold in the societies of the Geats and the Danes is a symbol of friendship and generosity, however on the side of evil gold is another word for greed. In his last battle against evil, Beowulf faces a destructive dragon that has been burning his people’s homes. This results in complete chaos. The dragon is so violent toward the people because it had something valuable stole from its stash of treasure. Even though it is useless to the dragon, it still accepts no threats from Beowulf and immediately is obsessed with killing the courageous warrior. In Beowulf, gold can be used as a token of kindness, or an object worth killing over.
Generosity, righteousness, evil, religion, friendship, strength, and bravery, secrets, death, and greed are values that are displayed throughout Beowulf and play a significant role in the actions of all of the characters.  In the images of golden rings, shining knights, chain mail, skeletons, blood, and swamps, the important values shape the society of the Geats, Danes, and monsters in this poem stand for all the is righteous, good, and evil in the collage. Good and evil constantly clash together in the poem, the closeness of the pictures in the collage prove this. The images depicting good are larger, saying that ultimately the victors in a heroic society are those who allow room in their lives for what they value.

View Project

The Ellis School - 6425 Fifth Avenue - Pittsburgh, PA 15206