? Throughout the story, Grendel is trying to find the meaning of life. He is trying to understand the purpose of living, and was looking for something to steer him in the right direction. In Chapter five, when Grendel finally meets the dragon, he finally believes that he has found the meaning of life. Grendel begins his life by being an existentialist. He was basically alone when he was young, and was left to figure out the world around him with no help. It was confusing to him, and that is how he developed the idea of existentialism. He believed that he alone existed.
Existentialism stresses freedom of choice, and he had the power to do whatever he wanted to do, so it made sense. He eventually realizes that he does not control the world when he says, “I think, trying to suck in breath, and all that I do not see is useless, void. (Pg. 29)” After coming to this realization, Grendel looks for a different meaning to life. He then listens to the Shaper, who tells lies to make the Danes feel better about themselves and have a meaning to life. As much as he wants to believe the Shaper and live his life according to what he says, Grendel felt too ashamed believing in lies to do so.
He decided that he would rather be an outcast if that was what it took to find the truth. He believed that he had found truth after talking to the dragon. The dragon is a nihilist. He sees no purpose in life. He claims to know everything, “the beginning, the present, and the end. (Pg. 62)” His basis behind nihilism is that everything eventually comes to an end, even himself. He thinks that there is no point in trying to better mankind because in the end it won’t matter. In the dragon’s mind, we are all fighting a lost cause, and there so there is no point in trying. He puts down humans, and especially the Shaper.
He says that the shaper is just giving the Danes an illusion, and does not know any more than they do. The only important thing for the dragon is finding gold. The dragon tells all of this to Grendel, who is at first skeptical of what he is hearing. He began to take the dragon more seriously when the dragon says that humans needed him in order to think and scheme and that Grendel caused humans to have science and religion. This gave Grendel the identity that he had been looking for: “I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings. (Pg. 80)” Grendel became on board with nihilism.
He now became “enraged” when he heard the Shaper tell his lies and felt like he was giving the Danes a purpose when he killed them, which only caused him to kill more. Grendel thought that he had found his purpose in life, although it ended up leading to his death. His belief in nihilism made him not stop killing, and also believe that he was important to the Danes. He believed that him killing Beowulf would be good for the Danes, and that is why he tried to kill him. Beowulf ended up killing Grendel. Had Grendel changed his views he would not have gotten killed by Beowulf and everyone would have been better off.