Good vs Evil in Beowulf
Table of Contents
Beowulf is revered as a hero in the interaction between the self and society and reigns for a long time because he upholds the warrior code of ethics. People in the Anglo-Saxon society in which the story is set lived in continual danger since conflicts were so prevalent. The populace could admire only men of exceptional bravery and heroism in these difficult circumstances. Characters in the poem take great pride in ancestors who have displayed courage and tried to uphold their values. The narrative is mainly a record of Beowulf’s courageous actions, in which he stands out from society by completely embodying its principles. These standards that this Anglo-Saxon civilization imposes on people focus entirely on having a good name, making good decisions as a warrior, and making good decisions as a king. While Beowulf is “all nice,” the monsters in Beowulf are “all wicked.” He battles the darkness as the light and strives arduously to make the world more just.
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The Heroic Warrior
The first conflict is between Beowulf and Grendel, the demonic creature from the depths known as “Hell’s captive,” who have already arrived to kill everyone celebrating in King Hrothgar of the Danes’ (of Scandinavian descent) hall, Heorot. Beowulf waits for the monster and removes his arm from him when it appears at night. Grendel perishes as a result, and Beowulf later encounters his mother, who is seeking retribution. He bravely pursues the mother monster to her den, where he beheads her to death (Graham & Ordas, 2016). The idea that being honorable and modest is worth the risk indicates good triumphs, and Beowulf is rewarded for his goodness. When Beowulf reaches the end of his life and becomes a king, he is once again engaged in combat with a monster that seeks out treasure. Beowulf has to battle a “slick-skinned dragon, threatening the night sky with streamers of fire” (Synnott, 2016). Even though he prevailed and slew the dragon, he nonetheless passed away from his wounds.
Following the heroic canon and the universally accepted notion of what is good, Beowulf is a good character. Instead of going up against people, he battles for others by eliminating harmful monsters (Toker, 2021). He continues to be a selfless hero until the end, showing that he would sacrifice anything for his people by taking on the dragon himself. Beowulf may have flaws, such as the tendency to argue with people or the need to exaggerate his achievements (Synnott, 2016). Nevertheless, he is always fighting for good and aims to eradicate all evil from the world. He is always on the side of good.
Beowulf is not the only admirable figure in the poem. We also have his friend Wiglaf. Wiglaf is a man of the highest integrity and is prepared to battle alongside his monarch till the end of time. Beowulf started to fight the dragon alone, but Wiglaf ultimately joined him and saw Beowulf die (Graham & Ordas, 2016). The only characters in the poem who care about other people’s well-being or something bigger than themselves are these two. The latter demonstrates selflessness, which is a virtue and a component of the heroic ethic.
The Conflicts With Bloodthirsty Monsters
Like any good epic hero, Beowulf frequently engaged in combat with terrifying beasts, which contributed to his transformation into a hero who upheld the heroic code and emphasized honor, bravery, courage, and strength. He represents all these qualities, yet his adversaries are all pure evil. The monsters are actual demons that represent evil and vengeance as they seek to rule over the Danes. The author refers to the monsters as “Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts” (Međimurec, 2019). The main antagonist of Beowulf, Grendel, is pure evil; he only wants to kill for the pleasure of killing. The Danes are terrified of Grendel and his might and believe they are his unfortunate victims. However, Beowulf, a powerful, fearless warrior, raced to aid the Danes with all his bravery. He was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice in his quest for glory to defeat the monster and restore justice to the land. In opposition to her plan, Beowulf overcomes Grendel’s mother as she pursues vengeance against her son. He then battles Grendel. The conflict between good and evil can be witnessed multiple times in Beowulf, including when he kills another at the end of his days.
In conclusion, Beowulf is the embodiment of goodness because he is dedicated to dignity, and honor, standing up for what is right and eradicating evil from the world like the monster Grendel. Following the precedent set by those who came before him, the poem is dedicated to the heroic code. Beowulf ends the struggle between the individual and society by adhering to social norms and perfecting the heroic code. Except for the one he could never win death—he engaged in every war he could and triumphed in every one of them. Of course, Beowulf is not ideal, though he frequently brags and engages in verbal combat with others. Nevertheless, he consistently succeeds, demonstrating that virtue is always intended to triumph against evil.
- Graham, O., & Ordas, E. (2016). Beowulf the brave. NSW Big Sky Publishing. https://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/books/beowulf-the-brave/
- Međimurec, E. (2019). The origins of evil in Beowulf and Milton’s paradise lost (Master’s Thesis). [Doctoral dissertation, Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek]. Digital Academic Archives and Repositories. https://repozitorij.ffos.hr/en/islandora/object/ffos:4681
- Synnott, A. (2016). Re-thinking men. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Re-Thinking-Men-Heroes-Villains-and-Victims/Synnott/p/book/9780367603014
- Toker, A. (2021). The age-old conflict: clash between good and evil in Beowulf and the book of Dede Korkut. Agathos, 12(1), 101-116. https://www.proquest.com/openview/6bbe3bd6b10f68e6b210ee0769cddfe2/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2029920