beowulf Essay Examples

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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

Tips for Writing Your Beowulf Essay

Who doesn’t love watching a great monster movie? There’s nothing more exciting than watching the climatic and gruesome battle between the story’s hero and the evil enemy. The majority of all the Hollywood blockbusters in theaters today are based on this good vs. evil dynamic. But this isn’t something new. There have been stories written in this genre for thousands of years, and one of the most famous of those is Beowulf. There is a chance that sometime during your educational journey you will be assigned to read and write an essay on this topic. If you're used to experiencing the battles on screen, then reading an epic poem translated from Old English may require some patience. Once you’ve mustered up enough enthusiasm to actually sit down and read the epic poem, you’ll be glad you did. Beowulf is actually a very interesting and fun story. It may not pack the same punch an action movie has, but you will enjoy it. If you've read the story but still have a hard time writing an essay about it, no need to worry. We will go over some tips and examples that will make writing your paper easier. Now let's get started!

Ideas to Help You Get Started

Anytime you want to earn a passing grade for literary analysis, you will need a plan. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many students start an essay with no focus or clear thesis in mind and just wing it. This very rarely works, and you'll end up spending extra time rewriting it. To help you get focused on your paper, we've come up with a few fresh ideas:

1. Analyze Beowulf as an Epic Poem

An epic poem is a long poem in which the hero of the story goes on a great adventure or journey and usually battles other forces including nature, man or beast. In the story of Beowulf, the hero battles a supernatural monster. Your Beowulf essay can be about the key components in the story that makes it an epic poem:
  • A lengthy story told in the form of a poem. Anybody that has read Beowulf can agree that at over 3,000 alliterative lines, it is definitely not a short poem.
  • The Hero. The majority of epic poems feature a hero that has performed heroic deeds during an adventure or event that is significant to a nation or culture. Beowulf battles and beats the monster Grendel, who has been attacking the king of the Danes.
  • The nemesis. Epic poems also feature an antagonist that the hero must battle. In Beowulf, the antagonist is Grendel and then Grendel’s mother, both of which are supernatural beings seen as a monster.
  • Compare to other well-known epic poems. One of the best ways to show why Beowulf should be considered an epic poem is by comparing and contrasting the story to other famous epic poems like Homer’s Odyssey or Virgil’s Aeneid. How are they alike? How are they different? What components do they share that makes them epic poems?

2. Compare Beowulf to other Interpretations

Beowulf is often considered as one of the most important surviving works of Old English literature. It is no surprise that there have been many different interpretations done in several different styles, including graphic novels, films, video games, and plays. If you are planning to write a compare and contrast paper about Beowulf, then you will need to use at least two different interpretations. If the length and depth of your essay are longer or deeper than normal, you may even have to use more interpretations. To make writing a compare and contrast paper, you should first establish a few key points that you can compare to the different formats. Here are a few that might help you out:
  • How are the main characters of Beowulf and Grendel portrayed in the movie or graphic novel compared to the original poem? How are they alike and how are they different?
  • What differences in the storylines can be seen in the other interpretations? Why do you think these changes were made and how does it affect the overall story?
  • What visual interpretations were used for the characters or scenes? How do they add to the story?

3. Why Point of View is Important

The point of view a story is told from can make a big difference on how it is perceived. Beowulf is a poem that is narrated from a third person standpoint. Although you are told how the characters are feeling and what they are thinking, you are still reading it from an objective viewpoint. What if the story was told from a different point of view? Would the story be the same if it were told from Grendel’s perspective or Beowulf’s perspective? How would the story change and what information would be left out if the point of view were changed? These are interesting factors that you can examine and maybe even help you see the story in a different light. You can also write about how important the point of view is for the story-telling and how it can totally change the reader's perception of the characters.

4. Theme

The theme is the recurring idea that pervades a piece of literature or work of art. Most great stories usually feature a number of themes. Beowulf also contains several different themes and trying to write on all of them can lead to a messy essay. The best thing to do if you decide to write about a theme is to choose one that really sticks out for you and dissect it. When writing a literary analysis, it's important that you provide enough evidence to back up your position. You can add specific examples, dialogue, and scenes that support the thesis of your essay. If you're having a problem deciding on which theme to write about, here are some choices:
  • Loyalty: The story's hero, Beowulf, often puts his life at risk for the king, country and his men. His men also risk their lives fighting for the hero. Later, Beowulf is rewarded for his loyalty by being named king, which shows loyalty from the people he saved.
  • Good vs. Bad: This is a theme that is very common in epic poems, and this is no exception. Beowulf represents the good in the world as he fights to protect the people of the land. Grendel and its mother represent the bad in the world and want to destroy and cause pain in the world. It's a classic theme that can be explored in many ways.
  • Identity: Throughout the story, you will find that the one thing that almost all the characters have in common is their desire to prove themselves and create their own identity. Whether it's through fights, bragging or contest, the characters are often trying to best one another.

5. Symbolism

You will often find a lot of symbolism in literature. For example, there are many objects that you’ll find in stories that represent something else. The color black often represents death or evil and fire can represent passion, pain or anger. Beowulf also contains a lot of symbolism in the story, and this may be a good topic to write about. However, you can't pick out every little thing and write about it, so choose a few things that are key to the story. Consider these examples:
  • The cave: The cave is where the monster Grendel and its mother live. It is dark and away from the rest of the world. The cave can represent the seclusion they must live in because they are different. Could this also be their reason for being evil?
  • The mead hall: In the story, this is where all the soldiers gathered to eat, drink and brag. It is very much like a club or social gathering. This represents community and togetherness.