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Symbolism in Beowulf Essay


Literary symbols are objects used to represent significant concepts or ideas and depict various values of characters in a work of art. In Beowulf, light, and darkness stand for good and evil that looms throughout the poem. Traditionally, light represents good while darkness infers evil, and this supposition is exceedingly evident in Beowulf. However, in some instances, contradictions exist concerning light and darkness representing good and evil, especially in the three battles. Some of the objects within the play symbolizes good, which is represented by light, while other objects or people represent evil. For instance, Grendel depicts evil or darkness, while the throne is a symbol of light or good. This imagery helps the poet to create an outstanding work of literature that harmonizes various themes. Light and darkness in Beowulf assists to create symbolism, which connects with other ideas to portray good and evil actions.

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Light and darkness emerge as two closely associated factors evident in the entire poem, symbolizing good and evil. The heroic actions of the warriors bringing civilization in the society are linked to light. Conversely, evil is observed in Grendel’s lair that is colored black and gray. More so, Grendel hunts at night where the night is characterized by darkness further projecting the symbol of evil. Good and evil stand out during the Grendel’s massacre of the Danes where the former has a bloodthirst from the Dane community. He emerges as an enemy to humanity with an embodiment of evil. Grendel fails to observe the codes of a civilized society, including loyalty and honor but promotes savagery. The poet notes “Full sadly in singing, that Grendel won the war ‘Gainst Hrothgar a while of time, hate−envy waging” showing Grendel’s intent to make humanity suffer by waging war and causing death (Morris 11). This indicates that darkness in the form of his clothes and his activities consumed him to the point of unleashing significant suffering to the Dane community.

Beowulf previous battles are associated with darkness in the poem. He is represented as a brave man who enters the realms of darkness and fights to the end. Consequently, Beowulf as a symbol of light conquers evil and illuminates the suffering community. This is observed where the poet notes “I ground down the wrathful; and now against Grendel I here with the dread one alone shall be dooming” indicating that the battle continues towards Grendel who caused multiple attacks on the people (Morris 20). In this case, Beowulf’s triumph is contrasted to Grendel’s massacres portraying light and dark imager. More so, daylight in the poem is associated with the ability of humanity to rule justly while darkness and night predict the bloody raids conducted by Grendel. Hrothgar’s warriors experience darkness and face evil during the night, but at daytime, only blood is observed. The poet underpins the significance of light to illuminate the world and show the devastating effects of the darkness.

Light and dark imagery is observed as the poet describes Grendel’s eyes at night. In addition, Grendel’s death is contrasted to his evil nature, which is directly related and repeated severally throughout the poem. However, the physical stature of Grendel depicts the most substantial connection between evil and darkness, but peace follows as hell receives him. The poet portrays the inability of evil to survive in the light where good people exist. The poet notes “In his fen−hold had laid down the last of his life, His soul of the heathen, and hell gat hold on him,” showing the ultimate place of evil in hell (Morris 33). The plot indicates that good is bound to overcome evil and rule the world. In addition, evil cannot escape the eternal cycle of death. The poet shows that the sequence of light and dark occurs simultaneously, but in the end, good prevails over evil.

The feud existing between Finn and Danes according to history often resulted in blood and death, similar to the conflict between Cain and Abel in the Bible. The evil brother used treachery to cause harm to the good brother just as Grendel vows to rain hell on the Dane community. The poem is an allegory of the passage in the Bible where blood-feud must come to a halt when the force of evil is defeated. In Beowulf, the conflict ends when Beowulf slays the monster Grendel, and people celebrate the victory. Notably, this triumph symbolizes the conquest of light over dark and good over evil.
To sum up, light and dark imagery in Beowulf shows the contrast of good and evil in a society where both actions exist and their outcomes. Grendel embodies evil that lurks in the darkness, causing death and devastation of the warrior. On the other hand, Beowulf carries the light where he fights and conquers darkness. The poet characteristically develops various theme following the expression of light and dark symbolism. The victory of Beowulf over Grendel contrasts predicts the success of light over dark where good prevails over evil.

Work Cited
Morris, William. Tale of Beowulf. Vol. 2. Longmans, Green, 2007.

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