Beowulf is an epic tale in which we follow the faceoffs between Beowulf and three monsters (Gummere). When he fights against these adversaries, he is victories. As a character, Beowulf aims to bring peace to the people around him and he wants to vanquish these creatures for the good of others. As such, it is important to consider the actual and metaphorical struggles that this character experiences throughout the story. While fighting evil monsters, he must also ensure that he is able to remain pure of character himself.
As Beowulf continues with his journey, he is reminded of this constant struggle at every corner. Ultimately, Beowulf’s demise occurs when he feels that as a part of his principles and his desire for glory in battle results in his death. This demonstrates that good is not always able to defeat evil, but it is noble to try to do so. The actions of the character Beowulf could be assessed to better understand this universal conflict reflected on in this story.
In the book, there are many examples of this good versus evil conflict that is one of the broader themes of the story. The author is explicitly about Beowulf’s character when describing him. According to the text, “In the end each clan on the outlying coasts beyond the whale-road had to yield to him and began to pay tribute. That was one good king” (Shmoop 9-11). This quote demonstrates that a lot of people are aware of who Beowulf is as a character, and his goodness is known to many. People owe him a great deal, and this is why they owe him tribute for things that he has done for them, as well as for his valor in general.
Whenever Beowulf encounters evil, he aims to destroy it. This is the case when he encounters Grendel. This character is meant to serve as the symbol of evil, and metaphors from the Bible are used to describe the extent to which this is the case. In particular, he is considered to be a descendant of Cain, which means that he was born evil. According to the text, “So times were pleasant for the people there until finally one, a fiend out of hell, began to work his evil in the world” (Shmoop 99-101). This is referring to Grendel. The reader would expect a battle to follow the identification of this monster as evil, since it is Beowulf’s duty to conquer all evil.
Later in the book, it becomes apparent that Beowulf’s motivation to fight is as a consequence of his sense of justice. According to the text, “"I have wrested the hiltfrom the enemies' hand, avenged the evil done to the Danes; it is what was due” (Shmoop 1668-1670). Ultimately, Beowulf is indicating that he participated in the war because he wanted to right the wrongs that were involved in this conflict. He believes that he is able to do good by avenging evil. While it is a beneficial perspective in Beowulf’s mind, this mindset ultimately contributes to feuds and war between the Scandinavian and Germanic tribes. Thus, war could be started as a result of this and more lives could be lost in war than aiming to resolve conflict in a different manner. However, Beowulf’s flaw is that he is a warrior and he enjoy fighting, so he is using this as an opportunity to be able to continue demonstrating his glory. By letting his pride get ahead of him to too great an extent, however, this started him on the path that ultimately led to his demise.
When considering the events of good versus evil in this story, it is beneficial to consider what this theme means for the people who lived during the time of the author, as well as for those who are reading Beowulf today. In particular, it is thought that the story consists of Christian themes, which means that the battle between good and evil is parallel to the fight between God and Satan (eNotes 1). It is reasonable to consider it in this manner, given that the story references the biblical power of Cain to represent his character as evil. It is then reasonable to consider Beowulf as Christ-like character because he is sacrificing himself in order to work towards a safer life for others. However, a main deviation is the pride that Beowulf shows. Even though Beowulf seems to have a godly level of strength, he is a human character in terms of these emotions.
Beowulf is considered to be an epic hero because of his ability to consistently win when he is faced with challenges. This is related to an additional theme of the story as well as many epics, which is the strength of the human spirit. We fight against evil in our lives on a daily basis, and the book reminds us that it is important to keep up this fight, so we are able to better ourselves. We can look towards Beowulf as a example of what it looks like to refuse to give up, as well as to do good for others. As a fictional character, no one can be quite like Beowulf in real life, but we should aim to develop the aspects of our personalities that we connect with and aim to be more like Beowulf in terms of the achievement of realistic goals.
Overall, it is apparent that the theme of good versus evil helps the audience connect with the character Beowulf, and this promotes the progression of the story. This helps us remember that in life, we must deal with the fight against evil in reality, and it is important for us to find the courage to do so. In the story, Beowulf is the hero because he is brave and is willing to fight against three monsters in order to uphold the protection of innocent people. To reflect these values, it is important for us to determine how we can defend the rights and safety of members of vulnerable populations.
In doing so, it will be possible to gain a better understanding of how the needs of society could be met, and this is something that could benefit everyone. When considering the potential parallel that exists between Beowulf and Christ, it is important to consider that acts of charity and the defense of the weak leads to better outcomes for the community. It is therefore important for us to be encouraged to help others who are in need, and to avoid becoming too proud about our accomplishments since this could lead to our downfall.