Literary Merit and Its Significance to Beowulf

Kayla M. Demaray Mrs. Walker Senior English 6 November 2009 Literary Merit and Its Significance to Beowulf Any acceptable novel has some type of significance enclosed in the structure of its story. So just what establishes this? These thoughts, expressions and meanings the author hopes to accomplish should always contain sophisticated literary merit. Well known epic poem, Beowulf, accomplishes its merit through masterfully infused figurative language, two of which are most common, alliteration and kennings.

Beowulf is largely constructed around the monsters, condemned as outcasts, seeking out revenge. In Raffel’s translation he utilizes devises such as alliteration and kennings to emphasize and build fear of the monsters, add to suspense and accentuate action in the text. In lines 36-37 of the textbook’s, “From Beowulf,” Raffel uses alliteration in describing Grendel’s murderous crime, “He slipped through the door and there in silence / Snatched up thirty men, smashed them…” The repetition of the “s” consonant sound elicits a fear and adds to the suspense of the story.

It indicates the sanguinary of the slaughter, and the savageness of the sadist. In addition, in line 74 Raffel represents Grendel as a shadow of death, “That shadow of death hunted in the darkness, / Stalked Hrothgar’s warriors, old / And young, lying in waiting, hidden…always there, unseen. ” Grendel is also referred to as a “heathen brute,” and “sin-stained demon. ” The device is helpful to the story, creating a metaphoric quality, signifying certain characteristics the author wants to be presented of the character.

Although Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf is far different from Raffel’s his devices accomplish the same significance. In lines 122-125 Heaney also uses alliteration in describing Grendel’s powers of destruction, “Greedy and grim he grabbed thirty men…blundering back with the butchered corpses. ” Heaney’s use of alliteration is used differently in consonant sounds but has the same overall effect to the reader. In lines 703-704 Grendel strikes the mead hall again, just before Beowulf awakes to Grendel’s efeat, “Then out of the night / Came the shadow-stalker, stealthy and swift…” Both alliteration and kenning are used in this quote, displaying his surreptitiousness as he hunts his prey in his maddening for blood. Grendel’s mother is also frequently used as kennings throughout the story. She is illustrated as a “monstrous hell-bride,” “bewildering horde,” “swamp-thing from hell,” and a “tarn-hag. ” Each kenning acts as a stereotype and develops a high level of metaphoric energy. Heaney’s use of kennings here depicts an imaginative tone that succeeds in forming expressions of its characters in an interesting depth.

As Beowulf proves his courage and his outstanding deeds to his noblemen his acts of heroism are easily portrayed. He shows fearfulness and proves greater than that of the average character. Both Heaney and Raffel deliver numerous heroic proportions of Beowulf through kennings. Raffel describes Beowulf as “…greater / And stronger than anyone anywhere in this world…” He is also referred to as a “mighty protector of men” Throughout the story his respect and attention is built up and he becomes more and more worthy of recognition.

The authors use of kennings appoint and support his notoriety. Beowulf is unquestionably a perfect example of a heroic character. Beowulf uses various amounts of figurative language not just through its characters but its figures, ideas and concepts as well. These literary devices help develop and form the texts major themes and symbols the author hopes to accomplish. Its unique structure captures the horror of the monsters, and the acts of heroism its characters perform.

Two different translations, two different authors, yet the same underlying style of writing that prove them worthy of their transmuting mold of expression. Their use of sophisticated figurative language supports the complex character development, the profound diction and each authors original poetic imagining. Both Raffel and Heaney bring forth analysis of the text, its significance and its scrutiny through sophisticated figurative language.

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