The Significance of Heroes in Society

             Too often society defines heroes as those who possess extraordinary super powers or those who act as martyrs. Society sees these people as heroes and underestimates the heroism that lies within traditional people with conventional lives. In Grendel, by John Gardner, Grendel’s understanding of humanity’s cruelty broadens the definition of heroism in modern and historical culture. Although Grendel plays the role of a monster in the story, he is more essential to the kingdom than any hero because he provides them with the reality that death is inescapable. Traditional heroism involves admirable traits, yet society overlooks the necessities those unconventional heroes provide through exemplifying integrity, resisting convention, and outstanding but understated achievement.
             In Grendel, a brave warrior speaks of heroism and states, “Except in the life of a hero, the whole world’s meaningless” (89). Yet in Grendel, the antagonist actually provides more quality to life than the protagonist does. Considering the circumstances of Grendel’s life, Grendel shows integrity simply by having a splinter of hope in humanity and it’s future. Distraught at the bloodshed and cruelty of society, Grendel loses sight of the goodness that humans are capable of and attacks the kingdom out of despair, rage, and unbelief. Providing them with the knowledge that one day their lives will end, Grendel gives quality and meaning to their lives, disproving Unferth’s statement.
             Unferth also says, “The hero sees values beyond what is possible. That’s the nature of a hero. It kills him of course, ultimately” (89). Contrastingly, Kenneth Beck reveals through illness that the value of life is immeasurable. His battle with paralysis proves that life is not only meaningful, but that everything about life contains meaning and everything during life should be cherished. Kenneth’s accident and wavering recovery conveyed the value of life...

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The Significance of Heroes in Society. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:10, January 22, 2017, from