Beowulf @ Ellis

Elizabeth B.

Beowulf Collage Analysis

My collage is of two hands, one is Beowulf’s, and the other is Grendel’s. I picked pictures for the collage that show characteristics and qualities of Grendel and Beowulf. There are also additional pictures around both of the hands to show other themes that appear throughout the epic. The collage is related to Beowulf by the characteristics shown on Beowulf’s hand, Grendel’s hand, and the themes around the hands.

The pictures on Beowulf’s hand show how he might be viewed in the modern world. The main characteristics are arrogance and hunger for power. A few of the power-hungry pictures are of Hitler, Alexander the Great, Wal-Mart, and Kim Il-Sung. Hitler wanted to take over the world, which is an obvious show of power-hunger. Hitler was also a bit of an egomaniac, and rather paranoid. Beowulf wasn’t paranoid, but he did have a rather huge ego compared to an average person. Beowulf and Hitler have quite a bit in common as far as character traits go. Alexander the Great conquered almost every country in the Mediterranean area and would have continued had he been alive. Beowulf didn’t necessarily want to take over the world, but he did want to defeat as many creatures as he could. One could argue that he was killing them for the greater good, but there is still a self-serving element in that. I got the impression that he was just killing the creatures to add to his list of accomplishments, and to show his strength and power with that list. Wal-Mart is a corporation whose main goal is to sell cheap products in every country possible. One could say that people need cheap commodities, so it’s good that they sell inexpensive products to everyone.  The problem is that Wal-Mart doesn’t care about who it tramples and flattens in the process of selling those products. In this case the trampled people are the ones who have to make the products and the small business owners. Beowulf didn’t care about the people of the places that he conquered or the kings that he destroyed just as Wal-Mart doesn’t care about the people that don’t get paid enough or the small business owners who go bankrupt because they can’t compete with the low prices. All the pictures on Beowulf's hand that have been mentioned so far show his hunger for power.

Another characteristic of Beowulf is his arrogance. He shows absolutely no humbleness. He says upon his arrival to Hrothgar’s hall, “I drove five great giants into chains, chased that entire race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one…” (Fit 6- 419-424).  He doesn’t give credit to his soldiers in battles, nor does mention the fact that God was helping him the whole time.  Beowulf himself believes that he is a purger of evil. It’s a bit cocky to call oneself the person who gets rid of all evil─ it comes across as thinking that you’re perfect. When Unferth challenges his nobleness, he answers with more boastings. He says, “The truth is simple: no man swims in the sea as I can, no strength is a match for mine…” (Fit 8-531-533). As before, he doesn’t give credit to God nor anyone else that helps him; he just says he’s the best. On Beowulf’s hand there are pictures that show his arrogance through pictures of people today who think quite a bit of themselves. Among these are Zac Efron, Mick Jagger, and Muhammad Ali. Zac Efron is an actor who thinks extremely well of himself and his acting abilities. Mick Jagger is a rock star who also thinks very highly of himself. Muhammad Ali is a boxer who, after he knocked out his opponent, pranced around the ring saying ‘I am the greatest!’ all three of these famous people show obvious and blatant arrogance just as Beowulf did. Beowulf’s power-hungriness and arrogance is shown by the pictures of people today on his hand.

Grendel’s hand has pictures of child soldiers and abused children. The feeling that I was trying to convey about Grendel was that he could never experience God’s love because he was a descendant of Cain. So the pictures on the collage are examples of people who never get to experience love. Child soldiers are beaten and brainwashed until they think that they’re doing the right thing. They most definitely are not shown love. Abused children usually grow up have ‘messed up’ lives and do things that they would never think of doing had they been treated well during their childhood. A big question that was often brought up while discussing Grendel was nature vs. nurture. I think that a lot of the time we, in our comfortable lives, underestimate how important the nurturing is. Grendel was not nurtured which is a huge part of why he was so violent. The main idea I use for Grendel is that he was neglected and abused. There view. The only sympathy the poet allows is that line I mentioned earlier about how Grendel is not much evidence for this because Beowulf is told from such a biased point of ‘could never experience God’s love’. That line shows that he was neglected by God, and no one else was about to show him love- he was a monster. There is enough evidence to say that Grendel was abused and neglected, and that might be why he is so violent.

The pictures around the hands show symbolisms from the rest of the poem. There is a sword next to Beowulf’s hand. This shows his power and thirst for more power. There is also a lighthouse next to Beowulf’s hand. This shows both his burial, and how he thinks that he is a light in the darkness. He thinks that the world is dark and dirty, and he comes in to ‘cleanse’ it. The lighthouse gives light to boats (who might not really need it) just as Beowulf brought ‘light’ to this ‘dark’ world. There is a dragon next to Grendel’s hand. This shows his association with the ‘evil’ and ‘dark’ creatures. It also shows the dragon being against Beowulf. The absence of other pictures around Grendel’s hand shows his state of always being alone. His mother was his one and only contact. Having only your mother to be with would be a rather lonely life. The hands themselves show the idea of friendship and comitatus. Grendel’s hand is reaching out across the board shows his thirst for friendship and contact with people. Beowulf’s hand is straight up showing his readiness for friends, but he is not desperate like Grendel. The pictures around the hands have symbolic meanings that are not in the hands.

The collages of Grendel’s and Beowulf’s hands have a lot of symbolism. They relate to the epic with the pictures on Beowulf’s hand, the pictures on Grendel’s hand, and the themes around them. The pictures on the hands show modern aspects of the qualities displayed by Beowulf and Grendel. I show the other sides of Grendel and Beowulf in this collage. I show Beowulf’s bad side, and Grendel’s good side. My goal is to make people look at Grendel in a different, less harsh light, and to show Beowulf in a less glorified light.

            I’d like to thank Julia for editing my paper, and all the people who I got pictures from. I’d also like to thank John Gardner because I got ideas for Grendel from him.
Work Sited:
            Beowulf. Trans Raffel, Burton. Signet Classic, 1963.

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