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Heather Buchfield

Published on December 3, 2014

Burchfield 2 adjective used to describe Grendel’s mother is “monstrous,” a word that plays off of cultural beliefs from the time period, but does not necessarily coincide with evil. Her actions, such as lurking, biding and brooding, which demonstrate who a character is, do not mention acts that a monster would commit, as monsters are typically destructive forces who kill nearly everyone they come in contact with. Finally, the way in which Grendel’s mother bides her time can play on reader’s sympathy and readers of that time period should probably not feel sympathy with monsters if they are supposed to be evil. The poet’s us e of a term that describes her as a monster conflicts with her actions and the label applied to her, which then questions whether she is actually evil or a monster. The poet complicates how the reader should view Grendel’s mother by first calling her an avenger instead of a monster, which puts into question her status as an evil character. The reader gets a first glimpse of Grendel’s mother when the poet says, “an avenger lurked” (1257). She is called an avenger before anything else, such as monster or evil one, and this is the reader’s first impression of her. For instance, Grendel is first referre d to as a powerful demon” (86) right away, establishing what he is and keeping what he is and represents consistent throughout the poem. Another monster in the poem is the dragon Beowulf fights, and while the poet may not call the dragon a monster, dragons by definition are considered monsters. Beowulf killed her son so in order to avenge his death she kills Hrothgar’s best friend. Beowulf’s ideology is that “It is always better/to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mo urning” (1384 -1385). Avenging the death of a kinsmen was important in that culture. Grendel’s mother simply follows that ideology when she kills an important friend of Hrothgar in retaliation for Beowulf’s killing of her son who was important to her. If the reader uses justice as an excuse for Grendels’s mother’s act of murder and if justifying one murder for another is condoned by Beowulf, the story’s hero, and expected