I never skipped reading a book in high school EVER….. except for John Gardner’s Grendel. I don’t even know why I skipped over reading it, because I fell in love with cover and thought that Grendel looked like the cutest thing in the world. But I did. And I just recently got the satisfaction of being able to say I’ve read all the books I was assigned to read in high school!
I did enjoy the book, as I do with most books that are stories told from alternative perspectives. I think it is so interesting to consider other perspectives of stories, so this instantly was a book I knew I would have at least a minimal attraction to. I felt so bad for Grendel since Gardner depicts him as a creature that wants some sort of companionship, and every time that he tries to reach out to the humans they try to kill him first from their initial shock at him being a “monster.” It almost makes sense how he tortures them and stalks their meadhall to kill people randomly, because all he ever wanted from their was their respect and friendship, and they went after him first. So naturally he is reacting to that hurt that he felt. I also think it is sad how he cannot communicate with his mother, the only other of his type. She lost her ability to speak (if she ever even had it) and has left her son at a place where, as she grows older and loses her mind more and more, she only furthers his dependence on the humans that he has become obsessed with. He loves to stalk Hrothgar and his men, purely because watching them interact and live is the only form of entertainment he has and the only thing he can even try to relate to. He is similar to them since he can speak their language, but he cannot understand their actions no matter how much he watches them. But he must watch since he has nothing else to do, and after leaving the underground world and his mother and discovering the real world, he cannot just contain himself to these smaller things anymore. The novel is incredibly sad to read about the inner workings of Grendel’s depressed and lonely mind, but also very interesting. He offers insights into human nature that are pessimistic, yet something to think of. His conversation with the dragon seemed very symbolic to me; it was as if he were talking to a deeper part of his own mind which was relaying the truth of the humans to him more than he was usually able to see and giving him more of a grasp on the deepest recesses of his thoughts. Gardner did a great job depicting a monster that was unable to fit in anywhere and the thoughts of that depressed creature.