The epic poem Beowulf addresses the topic of acts of good done to supposedly benefit society. By paralleling events and their structure to Beowulf’s character, the poem reveals the theme that those who depart from society in order to achieve glory for themselves ultimately fail. In this piece of British literature, Beowulf battles three monsters. He boasts of his strength and courage; he insists that he complete each task on his own to gain fame, thus essentially isolating himself from society. Because of his selfish intentions, each battle has negative ramifications along with the positives.
Beowulf’s refusal to work together with the community in the battles against Grendel and his mother, result in the death of many; these strong monsters could have been defeated faster by an overwhelmingly unified force, and thus saving many lives. In his final fight against a dragon, Beowulf asserts that it is not “up to any man except me to measure his strength…or prove his worth” (171). Because he initially struggles against the dragon alone, he is fatally wounded; only with the help of his companion, Wiglaf, is Beowulf able to defeat the monster. Beowulf’s fatal flaw, which eventually leads to his death, embodies the theme that selfishly motivated people who disconnect from community are unsuccessful is. The structure of the poem reflects this theme because “the unfolding of an event into its separate aspects” reflects the separation of Beowulf from the community bond: just as each battle is structurally apart from the others, Beowulf sets himself apart from his community in selfishly attempting to defeat each monster on his own. This theme that warns again breaking with community to gain distinction has been applicable throughout all times because man has always attempted to praise himself; however, as Beowulf teaches, moving from society can lead to one’s downfall.