In the novel Grendel, John Gardner, through Grendel’s character, portrays the universal struggle all humans face to find meaning in life. Grendel, just like everyone else wants to find his meaning, and purpose. Though he struggles, Grendel is ultimately trying to find himself in all of the things that he does. Concept and Explanation Textual Support #1 People in their teenage years often experience a sense of isolation, and this is what Grendel is representing. He doesn’t understand why everyone else has companionship, while he is alone, which is showing his struggle to find out the meaning of his life.
People always complain that “no one understands them” and in Grendel’s case, it’s literal, no one understands him. #1 “Why can’t I have someone to talk to? ” I said. The stars said nothing, but I pretended to ignore the rudeness. “The Shaper has people to talk to,” I said. I wrung my fingers. “Hrothgar has people to talk to. ” Pg. 53 #2 This quote shows Grendel asking his mom why they live where they do. He’s looking for answers, for a reason why they live there, and why they live the way they do. He might not be looking for a meaning to life, but he’s looking for a meaning for his way of life.
He again, doesn’t understand why other things get to live in nicer ways, and in better places. Grendel is looking for a reason, as always. #2 “‘Why are we here? ’ I used to ask her. “Why do we stay in this putrid hole? ’” pg. 11 #3 This quote also shows Grendel trying to find meaning to life, or rather show his negativity towards it. He is stating that where you are a child, everything is good, but then you grow up and you have to realize the truth. Grendel is still trying to figure out his truth, and what his meaning really is.
#3 “So childhood too feels good at first, before one happens to notice the terrible sameness, age after age. ” Pg. 9 #4 This quote represents Grendel’s more nihilistic ways. He questions his own actions, and motives, showing that he is unsure. His answer to his own question is not even an answer. He says Hrothgar has not done anything to deserve it, but he also has not done anything to be exempt from him. Grendel, again, is searching for an answer why. #4 “How, if I know all this, you may ask, could I hound him–shatter him again and again.dive him deeper and deeper into woe?
I have no answer, except perhaps this: why should I not? Has he made any move to deserve my kindness? ” pg. 122 #5 When people find something they’re good at, they refer to it as their “calling. ” Well, this quote represents Grendel finding his calling. He is finally stating that he has an identity and purpose that is unique. This is the first time Grendel feels he actually has a place, and his life has meaning, which elates him. #5 “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! ” pg. 80.