Nihilism in the novel grendel by john gardner

Create New His soul is as turbulent as the sea. A titan straddling good and evil, serving no master but his own considerable desires. Did you know he spent years in a Tibetan monastery?

Nihilism in the novel grendel by john gardner

Reading his mind, the dragon scoffs at the idea, asking him brusquely: As a more highly evolved creature than Grendel and the humans, the dragon has a vision of the world that is beyond anything these low creatures can comprehend.

The dragon sees both backward and forward in time, though he quickly disabuses Grendel of the notion that this vision gives the dragon any kind of power to change things. The dragon ascertains that Grendel has come seeking answers about the Shaper, and he begins by explaining the flaws in human thinking.

Lacking the total vision that the dragon has, humans approximate by gluing isolated facts together and trying to link them into logical chains and rational systems. Every once in a while, the humans sense that their systems are actually nonsense—that is where the Shaper steps in.

From the SparkNotes Blog

The Shaper, through the power of his imaginative art, provides the Danes with an illusion that their systems are real. In reality, of course, the Shaper has no broader vision than any other man, and he is still working within the same limited system of facts and observations.

His system may be neat and ordered, but it is entirely contrived. The curmudgeonly dragon launches into a sprawling philosophical discussion, in which he has difficulty making his points understandable to the simple, childlike Grendel.

The dragon explains that humans have a tendency to extrapolate theories and grossly generalize from the limited evidence they have, hampered as they are by their restricted vision of the world. The dragon also explains to Grendel how all nature inevitably moves toward more complex forms of organization.

He illustrates his point by comparing a vegetable to an animal. If a vegetable is split into many different pieces, nothing changes from piece to piece; its organization of molecules remains consistent throughout its body. An animal, however, has a center of dominant activity—the head—and if that center is severed from the rest of the animal, the entire coordination collapses.

The dragon makes the same comparison between a rock and a human.

Nihilism in the novel grendel by john gardner

The rock, a less complex object, makes no distinctions about what it attracts gravitationally. Man, on the other hand, organizes, makes selections, and then acts systematically upon his environment. Grendel and the dragon reach a frustrated impasse. Finally, the dragon reveals that the world Grendel knows is no more than a small ripple in the stream of Time, a gathering of dust that will fade away completely when enough years pass.

Even the dragon himself will be killed someday. He grants that Grendel does have a kind of purpose in life: Grendel drives man toward the lofty planes of art, science, and religion, but he is infinitely replaceable in this capacity.

Whether Grendel sticks with man, helps the poor, or feeds the hungry is irrelevant in the long run. The dragon, for his part, plans only to count all his money and perhaps sort it out into piles. In contrast to the ordered worldview of the Shaper, the dragon sees the world as a chaotic, meaningless place, a vision that speaks to the spiritual disconnectedness that Grendel has been experiencing up to this point.

SparkNotes: Grendel

The meaningful patterns and systems that man creates—history, for example, or religion—are hollow and unfounded. In the face of this all-encompassing vision, the most passionate response the dragon can muster is a crankily resigned cynicism. Existentialism is a school of thought that presupposes the absence of God and a total lack of meaning in life.

As such, existentialism asserts that there are no intrinsic morals or values in the world: Nihilism takes existentialism a step further, to an even bleaker worldview. Like existentialists, nihilists deny the existence of any inherent meaning or value in the world.

Under such a system, meaningful distinctions between things are impossible, and therefore all attempts to make such distinctions eventually come to nothing.

To the dragon, the values of piety, charity, nobility, and altruism are totally interchangeable irrelevancies. As a record of historical acts of bravery, the entire purpose of Beowulf is to ensure the fame of its hero and the culture of warriors he represents.

For that community, fame acts as a bulwark against the ravages of time. The dragon, however, would reply that fame, too, must fade with time.Throughout the novel Grendel by John Gardner, the monster Grendel has many different encounters that change his view on the world, but it becomes unequivocally clear .

John Gardner (–) was a bestselling novelist and one of the most popular and respected writing teachers of his generation. His books On Moral Fiction, The Art of Fiction, and On Becoming a Novelist are consulted by thousands of aspiring writers every novels include the classic Grendel and the bestsellers October Light, The Sunlight Dialogues, and Nickel Mountain.

SparkNotes: Grendel: Chapter 5

Nihilism, as well as existentialism and a host of other philosophies are boldly explored in Grendel, a novel by John Gardner. The antagonist Grendel travels on a journey of self-discovery, eventually becoming a nihilist, only to be gallantly disproved by the hero Beowulf. Jul 31,  · An Online Tagalog - English Dictionary Learn Tagalog or Filipino Language for free.

Archives and past articles from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and A summary of Chapter 5 in John Gardner's Grendel.

Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of Grendel and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.

GRENDEL by John Gardner -- Novels for Students