Get help from the best in academic writing.

Violence and Societal Change in Beowulf

It is said that up to thirty thousand men may have died at the battle of Hastings, a conflict that occurred almost one thousand years ago. World War II, which lasted less than seven years, has been estimated to be responsible for up to forty million deaths. Thus, many people often ask the question why? Why does such conflict occur? Who or what is responsible? The culprit does not hide nor has it escaped scrutiny and blame. It comes in many shapes and sizes, faces and places. It is called violence and the potential for it resides in every single person on this earth. Whose violence conquers all? It is hard to measure the significance of violence, especially when it can cause so much destruction and death as well as stimulation. However, violence cannot simply be explained as male testosterone since women have and continue to demonstrate the ability to be violent as well. It also cannot be explained as a by-product of rage, jealousy, greed, or stupidity. No. Violence is an innate human quality and one may even go so far as to call it a necessary human function. Violence is a building block of society. A tool even; it helps shape and evolve society. For example, the Napoleonic Wars are described on the Canadian Encyclopedia website as having “greatly stimulated the export economy of the Canadas (Upper and Lower) and the Maritimes…” and that the result (of the wars) was responsible for the “development of the Canadian forest industry…” Violence (conflict) is necessary to producing social change and an improved society. The theme of violence in Beowulf is portrayed by the character Beowulf’s presence, usefulness and hero status in the poem with the understanding that violence is a necessary function of society. Violence also extends …

… middle of paper …

… seems fitting that Beowulf’s worth to society is parallel to his capacity for violence. Because violence is an essential tool used to produce social change and improve society men like Beowulf will always be needed. Whose violence conquers all? Beowulf’s violence conquers Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragons’ violence in the poem Beowulf. Revenge is proven to be a tool used to facilitate the cyclical nature of violence and conflict through these three monsters and in each instance a change occurs. Society is changed and improved through these conflicts and these conflicts are solved through violence.

Works Cited

Kendall, Diana, Linden, Rick and Murray, L. Jane. Sociology In Our Times: 5th Canadian Edition. United States: Thomson Wadsworth.

“Beowulf.” Norton Athology: English Literature. Ed. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton

Epic of Beowulf Essay – Honor and Dishonor

Beowulf: Balance of Values

Symbolizing honor and strength, control of the “wine-hall” passes into the hands of the victor, under the traditional laws of the Danes and Geats. As Beowulf triumphs over the fiend, Grendel, he casts off the shame and dishonor which would have befallen him, and full control of the wine-hall, as well as territorial supremacy, are clearly his. Only later in the poem does Beowulf begin to lose the primacy that had been exclusively his domain. Even in death, however, Beowulf is immortalized by the members of his tribe, and by the writer, as he passed into glorious history His funeral pyre, and monument on the coast, bore witness to his greatness.

It seems that the avoidance of shame and dishonor in one’s youth establishes a life-long pattern in Geat Society, whether minor failures are registered later in life or not. Once a great warrior, Beowulf remains one. His people thrive on his noble character and triumphs; his opponents tremble at his name, in awe and respect.

Further, inter-tribal generosity and openness, for example, during scenes of thankfuness for the victory over Grendel, are also qualities which shine forth throughout this saga, further advancing the premise that this Geat warrior-king and his people embody all of the characteristics thought noble and high-minded in the eyes of his tribesmen.

The obvious premium placed on the “honor of victory”, and the “shame of defeat” is demonstrated again and again in violent confrontations which punctuate this dramatic tale. The narrator seems to persist in focusing on the same acts of valor, varying the descriptions only slightly, as one passage melts into the next. On many occasions, women surround the victor; wine, treasure or tribute are exchanged and valiant acts are praised in song and dance.

Nonetheless, destruction of one’s reputation is possible, as well, as the poet points out in the tragic episode dealing with Haetheyn who inadvertently killed his own kinsman.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.