Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overall Impression of "Beowulf"

I'm curious as to what you're impressions of "Beowulf" were. I didn't enjoy it all that much, but I'm interested to know why you liked it (if any of you did). The character of Beowulf seemed a little too cocky and self-assured to me. Maybe that was valued in their culture, but I find it very off-putting. Beowulf can be compared to Aragorn because they are both good fighters and become kings, but Aragorn is much more likable because he is so humble. Does this make Aragorn a better king than Beowulf?

6 comments:

Elladan said...

We'll just have to agree to disagree as far as liking Beowulf goes. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and was fascinated by both the monsters and the culture of the Danes and Geats. Those were the days when bravery was valued greatly, and men's pride and honor were almost more important to them than life itself. I can definitely see the comparison between Beowulf and Aragorn, but I'm not sure there is enough similarity between their respective cultures to validate a claim that one was a "better" king than the other. Each proved to be a great king in his own way.

Diamond Took said...

I can say that I enjoyed reading Beowulf, for the most part but I certainly can sympathize with Elwing. To be honest, Beowulf didn't even come across as human enough for me to worry about a lack of humbleness. Like we said in class, personal taste varies. For me, not enjoying something like Beowulf does not necessarily mean I pass judgement on its value as literature. I think I can not enjoy or even not like great literature without disputing its overall merit. I don't see why this is inconsistent. I value complex characterization and insightful theme in my favorite literature while others might prefer other aspects. My English teacher (who had a PhD in literature) in high school once could barely conceal her contempt for a novel we were reading that is mostly considered a classic. Just because something is good doesn't mean we have to like it to be consistent.

Belladonna Took said...

Many classics today just do not seem as good to modern society as they did in the past. It is really difficult to make something so timeless that people thousands of years later can relate to it in the same manner. We discussed in class that maybe theme was the big deal, not plot at this time. Moreover, if Tolkien is correct in his reasoning that this was written by a Christian author about Pagan culture, then this does signify a transitional state. In Beowulf, Tolkien explains that there are some Christian ideas (although they may not be all that direct) that the author could not help but reveal in this Pagan plot. In Beowulf, maybe the unsteady advance (meaning the constant digressions in the plot) , which seems so unappealing to us now, represent this unsteady and quick transition between Pagan and Christian. Also, characterizing Beowulf as a cocky and boastful warrior (also can be irritating to many people now) may have been appealing and important qualities to this society; this is the way I look at Beowulf. So, if you put yourself in the intended audience’s perspective (and you can understand all the references and meanings behind author decisions), then you can somewhat appreciated Beowulf as they must have. But if we look at it through my perspective (or today’s perspective), it can come off as irritating and lacking plot (which is really important now). My biggest point is that I think Beowulf is extremely interesting because I think it is a great work of literature that we can never fully appreciate and understand like it was in the past. Is Aragorn a better king than Beowulf? I would say yes because I like Aragorn more, but it also goes along with this perspective idea (“better” being subjective, thus changing as time progresses).

Luthien said...

I would agree with Elladan about not truly being able to compare the kinghood of Beowulf and Aragorn. This goes hand in hand with the no-literature-is-timeless thing. The culture that "Beowulf" came out of obviously seemed to have valued the tale (and lead character) of "Beowulf" simply because of the fact that somebody created it, passed it on, used it to entertain others, and eventually wrote it down.

Miriel said...

I am not sure that I would consider Beowulf "great literature" for me personally, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Even though the plot is not great, I like the writing style, and I enjoy it because it really is an escape to another culture and time period.

Idril said...

I feel that the concept of "timelessness" doesn't necessarily mean that future readers must interpret it in the same manner as when it was written. In fact, I believe in the exact opposite. The interpretation of a "timeless" piece of literature should change with the changes to society around it. While the text and themes remain the same, the values and ideas that a reader takes from them will always vary depending on the reader's societal context.