Beowulf’s Ego Identity and Authentic Self
Ana Martinez-Lopez Dr. Wagner ENL 2012 13 May 2013 Beowulf: The Ego-Identity & the Authentic-Self All of us human beings are born with our own unique identity. The way we perceive ourselves, our actions, our thoughts, and interactions with one another are influenced by our identity; who we are. Every single one of our identities go beyond what we are on a daily basis and can be influenced by many factors; such as society, culture, religion, ancestral heritage, et cetera.
In order to understand how find our true self; we must understand that there are different types of identity’s that can flourish within us depending on our culture and beliefs. For instance, the ego-identity is a necessary point of reference that allows us to consider our daily experiences against what we already believe and know. The authentic-self involves our natural instincts, desires, intellect, talent and capabilities with which we are born with (Khoshaba).
In the beginning after I began reading Beowulf, I asked myself, “What do you see in the poem? Is there a change? A is his identity? ” Since psychology is a field of interest to me, I instantly picked up an internal identity struggle and thought I could eventually expand from it. After reading specific sections where the writer in Beowulf refers to the warrior’s background and how individual reputation plays an important part in society back then, I knew that there could be a of his ego-identity and authentic-self.
In the poem Beowulf, I can see the identity struggle of a young, brave warrior who at first was thriving through his own authentic-self only to find his ego-identity in his second battle and struggle with both in the last one in which he is ruler of Gearland at an old age. In the beginning of the poem, I noticed how the writer introduces a world in which the male figures is known as the “father’s son” which gives off the impression that ancestral heritage from the father’s side was going to be essential in the development of the poem.
For instance, in the translation by Seamus Heaney, lines 262-266 say, “In his day, my father was a famous man, a noble warrior-lord name Ecgtheow. He outlasted many a long winter and went on his way. All over the world men wise in counsel continue to remember him. ” In my mind, I was able to recognize a connection that this is a patriarchal society where the ancestral lineage of the father is crucial given the fact that in the poem, the male characters are unable to neither speak about their identity nor introduce themselves without referring back to their family history.
This is very important because it shows insight as to how society was back then. From lines 279-285, Beowulf says, I can show the wise Hrothgar a way To defeat his enemy and find respite- If any respite is to reach him, ever. I can calm the turmoil and terror in his mind. Otherwise, he must endure woes And live with grief for as long as his hall Stands at the horizon, on its high ground. I love the way Beowulf spoke these lines because I can see bravery and intellect from a young warrior who is trying to genuinely help someone else.
Essentially, I see his authentic-self by the time he fights with Grendel because it was his own desire and capability that was leading him to the path into realizing his true purpose. He fights Grendel and is victorious in the battle; he used his intellect and waited for him to come to the mead hall once they were resting after the feast they had. The authentic-self involves our natural instincts; therefore Beowulf used his authentic skills and natural talent to best Grendel when no one else could.
Eventually, Beowulf was capable of defeating Grendel; however, his mother returned to seek revenge and killed King Hrothgar’s wise counsel in revenge. As the scenario unfolds prior to the second battle, it becomes evident that his ego-identity is more noticeable by his action of avenging the counsel’s death and going to retrieve the trophy taken; Grendel’s arm. Due to the way their society is shaped, it is expected of him to get rid of the threat that Grendel’s mom may become if left to grieve her son’s death.
Beowulf says to the King Hrothgar halfway in the lines 1384-1385, “It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. ” In my opinion, this fight was unnecessary because no matter how terrible Grendel was, she was just avenging her son by taking the life of the king’s dearest person. Therefore, since Beowulf is in a society in which this type of behavior is expected from a young warrior, it becomes evident that he is acting on his ego-identity. For instance, take in consideration how essential it is for this patriarchal society to look back to their ancestral lineage.
At this point, the ego-identity becomes something that matures into a preference of our own living style, beliefs and values, biases and choices of other things such as politics, religion, et cetera (Khoshaba). In this case, Ecgtheow, Beowulf’s father is an important person because of his high achievements therefore, the young warrior wants to follow his footsteps and it is of importance to him to be able to be highly recognized one day just as his father was. Beowulf no longer wants to act upon his own free will.
He does to help relieve such stress from the king but he is being driven by what is expected of him. His ego-identity is what leads him to the second battle in which he is once again victorious. Additionally, with this knowledge, I am going to argue that Beowulf shows his authentic-self and ego-identity at old age once he is a wise king, ruler of Geatland. At this age, a problem rises and he is faced with having to slay the dragon for the sake of innocent people. This third battle, in which he dies, is the perfect conflict of an ego-identity and the authentic-self struggle.
The struggle consists of his true self and what is actually expected from him as a wise king. Beowulf has always enjoyed challenge, being a warrior and the glory that followed. However, he is now king and is presumed to think wisely for everyone’s safety. This is where the issue is, he still believes he has his youthful strength to slay the dragon alone without any help of his loyal warriors when in fact he is of old age and should have thought about the consequences of leaving his people without a king.
Beowulf’s ego-identity is the fact that he is expected to rule wisely as the king that he was instead of doing something completely reckless that leads to his death, leaving his people unprotected for those other kingdom’s to attack in the near future. On the other hand, his authentic-self presents itself in the manner which he still sees himself as being able to have the ability and strength to do it on his own.
There is a part I read towards the end right before he went to slay the dragon in which Beowulf realizes that he may not make it out alive. I still believe it would have been more rational for him to take his warriors with him in order to defeat the dragon, leaving the possibility of him still being alive and recovering. In other words, I believe that the struggle of his ego-identity and authentic-self led him to his death. Thus, Beowulf’s truggle to continue on to the old age as a wise ruler is reflected but the fact that he still sees himself as a strong warrior who still has his youthful strength in him shows how he can’t make up his mind as to who he wants to be now at an old age. They say that we find our true-self by making mistakes. I honestly do not think Beowulf made mistakes prior to his last and final battle because he was full of achievements and glory. When stepping up as a ruler, he should have left his youth behind and become the wise king.
Instead he found himself struggling but it was that youthful strength what made him true to himself because it is what he desired not what he was expected to do. Overall, I did not see him seeking glory in his last battle, I actually saw him finding himself through the struggle of both slaying the dragon and his effort to stay alive. Works Cited Heaney, Seamus. BEOWULF: A New Verse Translation. New York: W. W. Norton Company, Inc. , 2000. Print. Khoshaba, Deborah. “Free the Authentic You. ” Psychology Today. 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 May 2013.