Literature is often concerned with the theme of the battle between good and evil. In practically
every story there is a hero, or good side, and a villain, the evil side. Such is the case in Beowulf. In
Beowulf, Grendel is portrayed as the villain, having slaughtered thirty men and then consumed them.
However, Grendel is not a mere villain. As is usually the case he was also a victim. Grendel is not simply
a villain because he is abiding by the law of survival of the fittest, is a victim of society’s stereotypes, and
is simply carrying out the punishment the men at the pub brought upon themselves.
As is stated in Darwin’s theories, nature will continue to exist if and only if the weak are
eliminated and the strong survive. Grendel is a being of great strength and size. He can pick up thirty men
in his hands and crush them. After doing so he consumes them. It is evident that not only does he possess
the strength to crush them, but also that his internal systems are strong enough to handle the mass amount
of blood and flesh he devours. A human, after consuming thirty men, would be incredibly ill if not dead.
Yet Grendel does not think twice or experience any discomfort after this meal, showing that the strongest
survived and the weak were eliminated.
Secondly, Grendel was a victim of society. As a whole society has continually stereotyped by
appearance. If one does not fit the mold of perfection in society they are many times scorned and taunted.
Grendel is a being that does not fit the mold which his society holds in high esteem. No doubt Grendel’s
size and strength was quite threatening. When one feels threatened by something they many times feel it
necessary to point out the faults in what they are threatened by. Grendel fell victim to this habit. Because
of the massive taunting he received from others in the village he felt scared and alone. When he had finally
received the limit of taunting he could endure he defended himself against those that tormented him. As a
result of society’s stereotypes Grendel found himself in a position that made him out to be a villain. He
however was a victim of society, not a tormentor.
Finally, Grendel only brought the punishment upon the men in the pub that they so deserved. The
Golden Rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The men at the pub had scorned
Grendel and made him feel rejected and unwanted. Grendel, acting upon his intuition of revenge, brought
to these men the violent punishment that they deserved. Instead of using the incident as a chance to
persecute Grendel, the villagers should have taken the opportunity to examine the way in which they
interacted with others and allowed the experience to be one of growth.
In conclusion, Grendel is not the villain, but instead he was the victim. He is abiding by the law of
survival of the fittest, reacting to society’s stereotypical way of dealing with others, and is enforcing the
punishment that others had brought on themselves.