Grendel, one of the monsters that Beowulf defeats in the epic Beowulf, tells his side of the story. Grendel is frequently challenged for violence and Grendel’s nihilistic view of the world seen throughout the novel. There is violence in Grendel and some of it is explicit however at a high school reading level this sort of violence is not inappropriate. Most high school students have seen more violence on TV then they will read in this book. As for Grendel’s nihilistic view of the world, the entire novel refutes it. One of the themes in this novel is that having a positive and more hopeful outlook on life is better than wallowing in nihilism your entire life. Grendel is not the hero of this novel, in fact he is the complete opposite, and he is not even an anti-hero. Grendel is given a choice in the novel whether to choose the Dragon’s negative nihilist view or chose the Shaper’s positive more hopeful view and Grendel chooses wrong. From that point onward...
This is one of my favorite novels, and, in my opinion, a masterpiece that should be read by anyone who enjoys reading fiction. The way Gardner takes a character that you thought you knew and adds layers upon layers upon layers of depth to him is absolutely astounding. This novel is probably the best character analysis I've ever read. It's not light reading, and it's not a typical action-heavy fantasy novel, but it is one of the most intellectual and thought provoking fantasy novels out there.
(I would recommend you read Beowulf before reading this novel if you really want to fully understand its greatness.)
This is a great book by one of the 20th century's great writers. I heard John Gardner speak eloquently about the necessity of moral fiction shortly before his untimely death. He was so obviously brilliant that 30 some years later I still get chills. Speaking of which, it was in Pennsylvania in January with a ton of snow on the ground and he rode there from upstate New York on his Harley. Intelligence, emotional integrity, great genius and a huge pair of balls. What else would you want in a writer? I didn't know it at the time , but he was also a mentor to Raymond Carver. I only wish I had had the sense to insinuate myself into his company during his stay, but I think I was too shy. This is a book that you can read, re read, study...a treasure. Get it.
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