Grendel and Frankenstein


In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good friend?”
“It is bitter-bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart.”
• Stephen Crane

This reflects how both Grendel and Frankenstein must have felt during
their lonely lives. “Seeking friends, the fiends found enemies; seeking
hope, they found hate”(Neilson back page). The monsters simply want to
live as the rest of us live. But, in our prejudice of their kind, we
banish them from our elite society. Who gave society the right to judge
who is acceptable and who is not? A better question might be, who is
going to stop them? The answer, no one. Therefore, society continues to
alienate the undesirables of our community. Some of the greatest minds
of all time have been socially unacceptable. Albert Einstein lived alone
and rarely wore the same color socks. Van Gogh found comfort only in
his art, and the woman who consistently denied his passion. Edgar Allen
Poe was “different” to say the least. Just like these great men,
Grendel and Frankenstein do not conform to the societal model. Also
like these men, Grendel and Frankenstein are uniquely superior to the
rest of
mankind. Their superiority is seen through their guile to live in a
society that ostracizes their kind, their true heroism in place of
society’s romantic view, and the ignorance on which society’s opinion of
them is formed.
Grendel, though he needs to kill to do so, functions very well in his
own sphere. Grendel survives in a hostile climate where he is hated and
feared by all. He lives in a cave protected by firesnakes so as to
physically, as well as spiritually, separate himself from the society
that detests, yet admires, him. Grendel is “the brute existent by which
[humankind] learns to define itself”(Gardner 73). Hrothgar’s thanes
continually try to extinguish Grendel’s infernal rage, while he simply
wishes to live in harmony with them.
Like Grendel, Frankenstein also learns to live in a society that
despises his kind. Frankenstein also must kill, but this is only in
response to the people’s abhorrence of him. Ironically, the very doctor
who bore him now searches the globe seeking Frankenstein’s destruction.
Even the ever-loving paternal figure now turns away from this outcast
from society. Frankenstein journeys to the far reaches of the world to
escape from the societal ills that cause society to hate him. He
ventures to the harshest, most desolate, most uninhabitable place known
to man, the north pole. He lives in isolation, in the cold acceptance
of the icy glaciers. Still, Dr. Frankenstein follows, pushing his
creation to the edge of the world, hoping he would fall off, never to be
seen or heard from again. Frankenstein flees from his father until the
Doctor’s death, where
Frankenstein joins his father in the perpetual, silent acceptance of
Frankenstein never makes an attempt to become one with society, yet he
is finally accepted by the captain to whom he justifies his existence.
Frankenstein tracks Dr. Frankenstein as to better explain to himself the
nature of own being by understanding the life of his creator.
“Unstoppable, [Frankenstein] travels to the ends of the earth to destroy
[his] creator, by destroying everyone [Dr.] Frankenstein loved” (Shelley
afterword). As the captain listens to Frankenstein’s story, he begins
to understand his plight. He accepts Frankenstein as a reluctant, yet
devoted, servant to his master. Granted that Frankenstein does not
“belong,” he is accepted with admiration by the captain. The respect
that Frankenstein has longed for is finally given to him as he announces
his suicide in the name of his father, the late Dr. Frankenstein.
On the other hand, Grendel makes numerous attempts to assimilate into
society, but he is repeatedly turned back. Early in his life, Grendel
dreams of associating with Hrothgar’s great warriors. Nightly, Grendel
goes down to the meadhall to listen to Hrothgar’s stories and the
thanes’ heroism, but most of all, he comes to hear the Shaper. The
Shaper’s stories are Grendel’s only education as they enlighten him to
the history of the society that he yearns to join. “[The Shaper]
changed the world, had torn up its past by its thick gnarled roots and
had transmuted it, and they, who knew the truth, remembered it his way-
and so did [Grendel]”(Gardner 43). Upon
Grendel’s first meeting with Hrothgar, the great hero tries to kill him
by chopping him out of a tree. “The