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Beowulf as the Archetypal Germanic Hero

The epic and oral poem Beowulf illustrates a loss of community, cultural values, and tradition. Beowulf, the main character, is an ideal king and archetypal warrior. History is relevant to Beowulf; this Germanic society was being taken over by Christian missionaries who were seeking to convert this culture. The character of Beowulf is a reflection of the Germanic culture’s virtues; heroism is emphasized in the text’s multiple references and constant focus on heroes and what it is to be a hero. Beowulf, who is reflective of an older generation of heroes, strives for community. In contrast, Christianity’s focus is on the individual. This conflict is ended once Beowulf, a figure of the past and the old world, passes on. With Beowulf, the hero dies. Hence, Beowulf’s efforts to keep his culture and his ethics alive are impossible as war and Christianity conquer the Germanic land.

Beowulf, physically and emotionally, is representative of the Germanic ideal hero. Beowulf is ?brave? (688), honest, and strong. One of the first scenes in the poem describes Beowulf?s arrival on the beach of a foreign land. Instead of fearing the large warrior that has arrived and summoning for help, the ?watchman? (229) is in awe of Beowulf. Before even getting to know Beowulf, the watchman thinks that this warrior is one of the strongest and noblest men he has ever seen: ?Nor have I seen/a mightier man-at-arms on this earth/than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken,/he is truly noble? (247-250). Therefore, Beowulf?s towering height and stature convince others that he is a hero. Like the typical hero, Beowulf gives boasts. While in Hrothgar?s kingdom, Beowulf defends himself against the kin-killer Unferth; Beowulf brags that he will kill Gren…

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…on. It is obvious that the singer will have no place in the future because the text ends with a war and with its heroes fading away. This end of heroism and of orality is suggested by the last singer in the text; during Beowulf?s funeral, a woman cries instead of singing, implying that there will never be a happy song about heroes again: ?A Geat woman too sang out in grief? (3150).

The epic poem Beowulf centers around the hero. From the character of Beowulf, the reader can see the importance of community, orality, and heroism. Beowulf, as a result, is an icon of his ancient Germanic heritage. He is mimetic of the world around him. In addition, he reflects the past?s tradition of heroes; he follows in Shield and Sigemund?s footsteps, mirroring their characteristics and actions. Thus, when Beowulf passes on, both the ancient world and the new world collapse.

Essay on Freedom in Chopin’s Story of an Hour and Gilman’s Turned

Freedom in Chopin’s Story of an Hour and Gilman’s Turned

In “Turned,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin, two female protagonists gradually reject and overcome their socially constructed and internalized female consciousness’. These changes of heart happen when horrific events that relate to both the characters’ husbands occur. The women are then forced to define themselves as individuals rather than relying on their mates, their families, and their households to give them meaning. Their life-changing realizations are shown through the environments surrounding them and through suggestive water images. In these pieces, the female mind and thought process is dissected to show how these women discover their complex and somewhat hypocritical social positions. Both protagonists are finally able to comprehend the weight of their roles as wives and as women in their confining societies. Through their new found understanding, they are forced to see the idle and petty lives they have been living to attain the other’s acceptance. In effect, the characters attempt to renounce their oppressed female roles and adopt lifestyles of their own.

The “turns” that transpire in these feminist works are suggested in the environment that the females live in. Their surroundings not only imply a change of lifestyle, but indicate a shift in the tone of the stories. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” opens with Mrs. Mallard receiving word of her husband’s death through her sister. With the tragic news hovering inside her head, Mrs. Mallard withdraws up to her room to be alone. Her room becomes a retreat to her; she is able to peer down on society without participating in it as well as contemplate her n…

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… of femininity and of marriage. Achieving independence, although it may result in one’s death or may cause one to be an outcast in society, becomes the ultimate objective of Mrs. Mallard and Mrs. Marroner.

Works Cited and Consulted

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” In Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters, Eds. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997.

Martin, Wendy, ed. “Introduction.” New Essays on The Story of an Hour. New York, NY: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. NY: St. Martin’s P, 1997.

Knight, Denise D. Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1997.

Lane, Ann J. To Herland and Beyond: The Life and Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. NY: Pantheon Books, 1990.

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