Beowulf is one of the oldest and most extensive poems in the history of literature today. It is also considered to be one of the pioneers of the “good versus evil” theme. While the poem revolves around the adventures and battles of Beowulf, the message of the story consistently conveys the concept that good would always defeat evil.
The plot itself is already evidence enough to the theme of the poem. As a warrior, Beowulf helps fight the evil Grendel, his mother, and the dragon to save the people of Heorot.
Beowulf clearly believes in goodness as it is the will of God. Several texts from the poem illustrate the theme of good and evil. During his battle with Grendel, he proclaims, “Whichever one death fells / must deem it a just judgment by God” (lines 440-441). Beowulf is also described to be a man of faith as he declares that, “the Geat placed complete trust in his strength of limb in the Lord’s favor” (669-670). This emphasizes the fact that Beowulf relies on the guidance of God and believes it to be his strength.
Even his friend Hrothgar illuminates this goodness in character when he warns Beowulf about the moral dangers caused by pride. “O flower of warriors, beware of that trap. / eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride” (1758-1759). On the other hand, evil rests on the characters of Grendel and his mother—the villains of the story. Grendel is introduced in a much darker tone, “until finally one, a fiend out of hell, / began to work his evil in the world. / Grendel was the name of this grim demon” (100-102).
He is also described in the story to be a descendant of Cain which further highlights the evil in his character, as Cain is widely known to be the biblical character who has slain his brother Abel out of jealousy. The story of Beowulf may seem to be just an extensive poem which tackles the never-ending issue of good versus evil. It is like a prolonged epic fairytale of defeating evil amidst the hardships. Yet, it is a unique literary piece that deserves its length in further reminding people that good really does conquer evil.