My seniors recently completed reading the classic epic poem Beowulf, and expressed some amazing insights regarding the text's cultural significance. After analyzing the poem through multiple critical frames and discussing how the themes and characters are very relevant in contemporary times, they worked on a few creative projects to correspond with their analysis.
Grendel, the infamous monster who terrorized the Anglo-Saxons for twelve winters, is one of the most noteworthy characters in the poem. His unnamed mother, a monster who avenges the death of her son, also carries significant symbolic weight. In an effort to explore the symbolic significance of these monsters within the ethic of the poem and bring that symbolism into a contemporary context, students created visual and verbal illustrations of these characters. Some of their work is included here.
Sarah Iler's visual depiction of Grendel focuses on isolation. An excerpt from her verbal illustration is below:
Are the actions of a monster created by isolation and sadness the fault of the monster, or the excluding group? The Anglo-Saxon Danes of Beowulf are quick to frame Grendel as a force of pure evil, but the poem’s narration suggests that the Anglo-Saxons are not blameless, themselves. If fact, though Grendel’s actions are shown to be reprehensible, Grendel is presented as a victim, a character the audience is meant to sympathize with, even. Through his life and demise, Grendel stands as a warning of the danger and pain caused by isolation.
Kavya Sebastian's illustration reflects the ideas in her essay, which argues that Grendel serves as a representation of mankind's inclination to isolate and alienate those outside the cultural norm. An excerpt from her essay is below:
Monsters have been a source of fear to audiences since the beginning of time: from Dracula to Medusa to Grendel. The function of a monster is primarily to add danger and excitement, to personify outside forces of antagonism, but ultimately, to mirror the less desirable qualities of humanity itself. In the epicBeowulf, the poet creates Grendel as a representation of the evil side of mankind, particularly its tendency to displace those who differ from the cultural norm.
Grendel's alienation on the grounds of prophecy and ancestry emphasizes the unfairness of judgement and a flaw in society--its unwillingness to forgive and allow redemption. Grendel’s evil, therefore, is created because he is denied the opportunities to become good.
For more great work from Mrs. Janovitz's AP students click here