Analysis of Beowulf
The Fighter: An Analysis of Good vs. Evil throughout the Ages Throughout the ages of man Good and Evil have developed strong tethers to way people live their lives today. There is no definition of a good man without the definition of an evil man; as Isaac Newton says “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. ” Whenever a hint of evil is present there must be a hero to knock it back. The Anglo-Saxon time period literature shows great depictions of both good and evil.
The epic poem Beowulf is a very accurate description of the Anglo-Saxon’s beliefs in heroism and evil, describing Beowulf’s great acts of heroism against evil foes such as the monstrous Grendel. The people relied on Beowulf to save them from great enemies and make their lives safer. The modern day society also relies on people to ensure their safety, but the ways they are protected from evil, and the ways of evil itself have changed. Many aspects of good and evil now have evolved from the Anglo-Saxon period, but the concrete beliefs of what is right and what is wrong remain the same.
Anglo-Saxon people believed in a hero that could save the world from any ungodly creatures. Good was known as heroes protecting the people from the evil, making life safer and easier for everyone else. The people who would put their own lives at risk in order to better protect the people they love. Beowulf is defined as a great man with incredible strength both physically and mentally, humility, integrity, and was viewed as royal and almost divine. His great deeds were for the good of the people, yet at the same time for the pride.
His selflessness shows when he “Would sail across the sea to Hrothgar, Now when help was needed,” (115-116). From the start people saw Beowulf as a man “greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world,” descended from Geats kings, which gave him great status and reputation (110-111). Another great example of the Good in Beowulf is displayed by Wiglaf, a soldier who was aiding Beowulf in his final battle. When Beowulf was old, and near death battling the dragon alone, Wiglaf remembered all the tales of Beowulf’s heroism and spoke “By almighty God I’d rather burn myself than see flames swirling around my lord,” (762-764).
Wiglaf’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his lord shows how the heroism can be passed from one generation to the next simply by actions. While the status of good is a big part of Anglo-Saxon life, Evil is a big part as well. It was defined as murderous, and anti-religious, with qualities like simplicity, strength, dishonesty, and almost barbaric actions. The evil Grendel is portrayed as a gruesome, blood thirsty monster “Spawned in the Slime of Hell,” whose “thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws,” (19, 35).
Grendel was raised in an evil atmosphere, not knowing the difference between good and evil, so the evil was what he knew as simple. Religion was also a key component; Grendel was thought to be “Conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain” while Beowulf had a clear commitment to God as he says in his dying words “I thank our Father in Heaven, Ruler of the Earth – for all of this, that His grace has given me,” (20-21, 816-818). Anglo-Saxon’s believed in strong relationships with God, thinking that the great heroes are almost divine.
They thought that the monstrous men were “Banished by God,” and “a brood forever opposing the Lord’s will, and again and again defeated,” (21, 28-29). The Anglo-Saxon’s believed that the good worship and love the Lord, while the evil fights the Lord. Good vs. Evil is a fight clearly present in both the Anglo-Saxon period and modern day. Today good and evil still show the same traits as in the Anglo-Saxon period, but have also expanded into much more. As the population grows and people begin to feel as if they’re not important, the greed for fame and riches descends upon them.
People are beginning to idolize people for silly things, or follow their every movements and try to imitate their ways because they want to be cool. Snooki is known for her partying, drinking and her exploits with men. Women are begging to be known, heard and seen by anyone and everyone, they crave male attention. This is becoming the evil we know today. Evil is not only known as murder or anti-religion, it is defined as stealing, fraud, bullying and much more. People are becoming discreet, manipulative, joining gangs and cults, and sometimes being so secretive they are almost intangible.
While in Beowulf evil was described as solitary and simple, modern day evil can involve many other people and be very complex. Different childhoods, and lifestyles cause people to have a variety of perspectives of what is right and what is wrong. A person raised in a small town in a Christian family may believe that one thing is evil, while someone raised in a big city with a broken family life may think it is perfectly fine. Just like in the Anglo-Saxon period, in most situations the statement “With every right there is a wrong” continues.
Without someone to break the rules, there wouldn’t be need for law enforcement. Many good men and women are known for putting their lives at risk for the sake of others, whether it’s in military, law enforcement, fire departments, or any other services. Today, good is known as kindness, love, helping someone carry something, picking up garbage, it’s all little things mixed in with the big things. Saving someone’s life will always be the ultimate act of good, but even just putting yourself in harm’s way to better the good of another. Good can now be found anytime, anywhere, by anyone.
A person doesn’t have to believe in religion to make someone else’s life better. They don’t need to be physically strong, or be a descendant of a great king, it only takes a bit of mental strength and twenty seconds of insane courage. However, the task of remaining a great hero to other people is much harder Media picks through the lives of the hero’s, trying to find some fault in their life. Princess Diana for example, she used to be known for her great kindness and charity work, but the media dig for scandals and are using her personal life to make her sound like the bad person.
We are looking for both the good and the bad in people, we automatically want to invade their personal lives and see that they are evil as well. We still believe that evil is evil and good is good, but we have made the lines between the two thinner and thinner, blurring them until they are intertwined. This modern blend of good and bad create a hard circumstance to become a great hero like Beowulf. Every day something good happens, accompanied by something evil, a cycle that continues endlessly. Brave people step up to put an end to the evil, and the world still goes on fighting the battle.
The Anglo-Saxon’s believed good was selfless, and putting yourself at risk for others, yet today it is found in the smallest of acts. The same goes for evil, the beliefs used to be that murder and anti-religion was wrong, but now somehow everyone is accused of doing something evil. Today good and evil are interpreted depending on the perspective of the person looking. In Anglo-Saxon times, good and evil were uncomplicated and clear, but today with the help of media good and evil are harder to separate. The lines between good and evil may be blurring evermore, but the concrete foundation will always stay true.