The Heroic Ideal in Grendel (2A 11/5/09)

English IV AP / Mrs. Ramos
Heroic ideal: The concept that any society will have a set of hypothetically “perfect” ways
people should conduct themselves. The hero of a society embodies these ideals more
magnificently than the average man, but is still not “perfect” since an ideal cannot actually be
reached by human beings.
In literature, we can characterize a protagonist (or any other character) based on how he/she
reacts to the heroic ideal.
In their article, “The Twelve Traps in Grendel”, Barry Fawcett and Elizabeth Jones present the
idea that the novel is organized around the concepts of the heroic ideal. They hypothesize that
Gardner sets up a narrative that forces Grendel to encounter key elements of this ideal and the
reader is to notice how he deals with each one.
Directions: Consider the theory that Fawcett and Jones present. What are Grendel’s reactions to
the various heroic ideals he comes across in each chapter? What clues to Grendel’s character can
we perceive from each of his reactions?
Ch. 1: Celebration of the cycle of life and death
Ch. 2: Love
Ch. 3: Poetry / art
Ch. 4: Civilization
Ch. 5: Knowledge
Ch. 6: Heroism
Ch. 7: Self-sacrificial love
Ch. 8: Loyalty
Ch. 9: Belief in the abstract (religion, dreams, omens)
Ch. 10: Hope
Ch. 11: Friendship
Ch. 12: Faith
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