ENGLISH 231 / Topics for Journal #1 on Beowulf
Choose one of these topics for the subject of Journal #1 (350 words, 20 points). Remember to include the endorsement and the word count. Also, the title of the epic poem is in italics (Beowulf), the name of the character is not. A piece of writing that is 350+ words in length should not be all one paragraph. Quotations from poems (Beowulf is an epic poem) are cited by line numbers with the slash mark (/) to indicate line breaks. See the posted document on MOODLE – Writing about Literature – for further instructions (with exs. on quoting from poetry) and the Grading Rubric for Journals.
- Grendel and his mother are interesting characters who, despite their physical descriptions, seem to have clear human attributes. They can be described as hideous and evil, but are Grendel and his mother just mindless, deviant killers, or something else? Discuss why the author portrays them as born evil and if there are understandable motivations for their behavior. Comment on both characters. Remember that they do kill, but so too does Beowulf.
- King Hrothgar does not ask Beowulf to come to his kingdom; therefore, Beowulf must be careful in how he handles his intrusion. Why? How could Hrothgar be insulted by Beowulf’s intrusion? Why does Beowulf sail to Heorot and concern himself with Hrothgar’s problem? How does he present himself so as not to offend Hrothgar? Hrothgar gives a valid explanation for why he will accept Beowulf’s offer (repayment of father’s debt), but is this really why Beowulf has come, or is it a way for the king to save face?
- Beowulf’s life is devoted to proving his bravery and physical prowess as a way to further his reputation, which will in turn ensure that his fame lives on after his death. [Note Beowulf’s long, dying speech which never mentions God.] What most concerns Beowulf at the moment of his death? His reputation is built on killing, which was a problem for the Christian writer of the poem. Defend the claim that Beowulf is most concerned with his earthly reputation, not his eternal judgment by God after death.
- Beowulf and Wiglaf are considered to be the heroes of the poem, almost mirror images of each other. What do they have in common? What are some of Beowulf’s character traits that Wiglaf exemplifies (although he is young) that make him the right man to succeed Beowulf as king?