Classics

The Primordial Struggle Of Good Against The Evil: Part II

The poem is set in the warrior culture in which weaponry and armor are indispensable as may be seen from the lines "Beowulf got ready, donned his war-gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater "(1442-45). However, while engaging in a fight with Grendel, a monster, which is the embodiment of evil lurking in heaths and swamps, entirely inimical of goodness and justice, Beowulf does away with armor and weapons and confronts Grendel in a hand-to-hand fight – certainly, a feat that warrants infinite strength and confidence. This portrays Beowulf as a representative of the forces of the good, who is bold and determined to annihilate evil without compromising on being just and fair.

One of the questions that engage human curiosity is about the causal factors that impart timelessness to a work of literature elaborating on the struggle between the good and the evil. It goes without saying that it is the demonization of the evil and the apparent vulnerability of the good (which, however, proves to be invincible in the end) that makes a work of literature eternal, evoking fear, sympathy and admiration in its readers.

It is the demonization of the forces of the evil in Beowulf that act as a foil against which emerges and stands out the awe-inspiring of Beowulf. The writer's immense creativity and foreplay of imagination bring out vividly the evil residing in characters like Grendel and his mother. Both Grendel and his mother are shown as representatives of evil residing in infested bogs and mires, given to man-eating and possessed with shattering and intimidating strength and guile. They are also the characters that represent the forces responsible for the dread and caution residing in the inner recesses of the human mind. Beowulf, on the other hand, represents the forces that generate faith and the inevitability of redemption.

All said and done, in the larger context, evil does play some role in balancing the equanimity of this universe. When a hero is larger than life, capable of wrestling against the evil in all its forms, it is likely to make a work of literature quite boring and mundane. The readers not only expect a hero to be bold and courageous, but they also expect him to be vulnerable and human who must have his challenges too. Even the greatest of men must succumb to death, but that is not to be viewed as a defeat, for, "When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark" (Lines 1388 – 89). It is the eventual vulnerability and humanness of a hero that ultimately make him a source of inspiration; someone to be cherished and celebrated.

Hence, as expected, by the end of the story, Beowulf, irrespective of his integrity and sportsmanship, is shown to be susceptible to the ravages of time and age. This susceptibility set aside the meekness and cowardice of the helpers and friends of Beowulf, as Beowulf fights with the dragon towards the end of the story amply brings out the feelings of fear and pity from the reader's heart, rendering the story ever inspiring.

Beowulf is indeed an inspiring work of literature. It is as much the physical and moral strength of Beowulf as the appropriate demonization of the characters representing evil that make the story so engrossing.

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