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- Chapter 1: Grendel is kind of crazy, lonely. He struggles against a stubborn ram. He’s been at war with Hart (Hrothgar’s people) for 12 years. He is only in communication with himself. We learn about his mother: she’s mute, possibly not human. He attacks Hart. In response, they burn their dead, praying and singing as if they had won, and rebuild. Grendel is angry and runs off.
- Chapter 2: Flashback to Grendel’s youth many years ago. He thinks about his relationship with his mother, he describes playing and exploring his world like a child. He gets stuck in a tree for three days and thinks a lot about his role in the universe and how he is alone and nothing around him has meaning. He encounters a stubborn bull, and meets Hrothgar. Due to a misunderstanding (they don’t know what he is), they begin attacking him. His mom saves him. Humans are dangerous, scheming creatures.
- Chapter 3: Grendel observes humans developing civilization. He learns to hate them because they are violent, greedy, destructive, treacherous conquerors. Grendel seems to be jealous/contemptuous of human theory-making. At the end, the Shaper arrives and impresses everyone. Shaper’s singing shocks, inspires, and upsets Grendel.
- Chapter 4: Grendel’s hatred for Hrothgar grows. The Shaper inspires Hrothgar to become a greater king. Hrothgar starts taking tribute. The Shaper tells a story of their ancestors and the origins of Grendel. The Dragon whispers (telepathically) to Grendel, and we first hear of the Lady the Shaper loves. Grendel is confused about the truth of the Shaper’s stories.
- Chapter 5: Grendel meets the Dragon, The dragon says that humans create incomplete theories and don’t understand totality. The Dragon claims to know and see everything, and it’s all a waste of time. He tells Grendel 1. Sit on gold, or 2. Make humanity better by being their reminder of death and chaos. Dragon knows both their fates.
- Chapter 6: Grendel meets Ulfric, the wannabe-hero. They debate the merits of heroism. Ulfric gets humiliated and tries to suicide on Grendel, but Grendel spares him.
- Chapter 7: Grendel meets Wealtheow. He’s in lust with her. She torments him because she brings peace and love, but he needs to kill her. She represents the best of humanity, but she, like Grendel, is alone. He decides to murder her, but spares her at the last minute, confounding the people. (Ulfric is a brother-killer)
- Chapter 8: Nephew of King (Hrothulf) and Red Horse. They discuss how the state uses violence to rule. Laws are violence. Kings are brutal dictators. Revolutions are violent. (power, law & order).
- Chapter 9: Begins having dreams about his death(?). He pretends to be one of their gods and manipulates an old priest into inventing a new religion.
- Chapter 10: He meets a stubborn goat who tries to climb even with its head bashed in. The Shaper dies and we learn about his secret love, the unnamed Lady who is decorous and loyal.
- Chapter 11: Beowulf arrives to “give advice” about how to kill Grendel. At dinner, Ulfric tries to mock and belittle Beowulf, but Beowulf ends up making a fool of Ulfric (reputation). Beowulf excites Grendel, seems unsettling and magical.
- Chapter 12: Grendel attacks the meadhall. Beowulf counterattacks, bashes his head in, forces him to sing about the concrete reality of the world, rips his arm off (Grendel slips on his own blood). Grendel runs to the cliffs near his cave and throws himself off as animals look on.
- The following questions will be presented to you on the exam. You will pick ONE question and answer it in essay form:
- What role does the dragon play in the novel and how does he shape Grendel?
- In what way did Grendel’s encounters with humans and dragons shape his morality?
- Why did Grendel continue to terrorize Hart rather than moving on?
- While it may be easy to say what makes Grendel monstrous, what makes him human? In other words, what’s his most human trait?
- Who has the greatest influence in shaping Grendel’s identity or destiny: himself, or some other character? How do we know this?
- What does the novel teach us about power?
- Does Grendel make a significant change throughout the novel? If so, how does he change? If not, what prevents him from changing?
- What role do the novel’s three prominent female characters play? (Wealtheow, Grendel’s mother, and the Shaper’s secret love—Lady) How do we know this? I recommend picking one woman, not all three.
- What caused Grendel to become a monster?
Requirements of the In-Class Essay
- Answer the question. Sum up your answer in a statement. That statement, made of one or two sentences, is your thesis statement. You can start your essay with your thesis statement. (In other words, you don’t need an introduction, but writing an intro will not hurt.)
- Prove your answer, paragraph by paragraph. Each paragraph should have a main idea. Please don’t write one big block essay with no divisions!
- Use evidence from the novel. Evidence includes BRIEF quotes or paraphrases.
- Analyze/explain your evidence and points. (I have read the novel. I don’t need a book report summarizing what happens. I want your opinions and analysis.)
- No conclusion necessary, but wrapping up your thoughts can help focus the essay.
- Length? Your essay will be however long it is. I’m expecting full answers. Very long essays may not score well if they don’t answer the question well, with some clarity, structure, and evidence. Shorter essays may score well if they accomplish the above requirements.