An Analysis of Grendel and Frankenstein

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.

I said, "Is it good friend?"
"It is bitter-bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart."
-Stephen Crane
This reflects how both Grendel and Frankenstein must have felt during their lonely lives. "Seeking friends, the fiends found enemies; seeking hope, they found hate"(Neilson back page). The monsters simply want to live as the rest of us live. But, in our prejudice of their kind, we banish them from our elite society. Who gave society the right to judge who is acceptable and who is not? A better question might be, who is going to stop them? The answer, no one. Therefore, society continues to alienate the undesirables of our community. Some of the greatest minds of all time have been socially unacceptable. Albert Einstein lived alone and rarely wore the same color socks. Van Gogh found comfort only in his art, and the woman who consistently denied his passion. Edgar Allen Poe was "different" to say the least. Just like these great men, Grendel and Frankenstein do not conform to the societal model. Also like these men, Grendel and Frankenstein are uniquely superior to the rest of mankind. Their superiority is seen through their guile to live in a society that ostracizes their kind, their true heroism in place of society's romantic view, and the ignorance on which society's opinion of them is formed.

Grendel, though he needs to kill to do so, functions very well in his own sphere. Grendel survives in a hostile climate where he is hated and feared by all. He lives in a cave protected by firesnakes so as to physically, as well as spiritually, separate himself from the society that detests, yet admires, him. Grendel is "the brute existent by which [humankind] learns to define itself"(Gardner 73). Hrothgar's thanes continually try to extinguish Grendel's infernal rage, while he simply wishes to live in harmony with them.

Like Grendel, Frankenstein also learns to live in a society that despises his kind. Frankenstein also must kill, but this is only in response to the people's abhorrence of him. Ironically, the very doctor who bore him now searches the globe seeking Frankenstein's destruction. Even the ever-loving paternal figure now turns away from this outcast from society. Frankenstein journeys to the far reaches of the world to escape from the societal ills that cause society to hate him. He ventures to the harshest, most desolate, most uninhabitable place known to man, the north pole. He lives in isolation, in the cold acceptance of the icy glaciers. Still, Dr. Frankenstein follows, pushing his creation to the edge of the world, hoping he would fall off, never to be seen or heard from again. Frankenstein flees from his father until the Doctor's death, where Frankenstein joins his father in the perpetual, silent acceptance of death.

Frankenstein never makes an attempt to become one with society, yet he is finally accepted by the captain to whom he justifies his existence. Frankenstein tracks Dr. Frankenstein as to better explain to himself the nature of own being by understanding the life of his creator. "Unstoppable, [Frankenstein] travels to the ends of the earth to destroy [his] creator, by destroying everyone [Dr.] Frankenstein loved" (Shelley afterword). As the captain listens to Frankenstein's story, he begins to understand his plight. He accepts Frankenstein as a reluctant, yet devoted, servant to his master. Granted that Frankenstein does not "belong," he is accepted with admiration by the captain. The respect that Frankenstein has longed for is finally given to him as he announces his suicide in the name of his father, the late Dr. Frankenstein.

On the other hand, Grendel makes numerous attempts to assimilate into society, but he is repeatedly turned back. Early in his life, Grendel dreams of associating with Hrothgar's great warriors. Nightly, Grendel goes down to the meadhall to listen to Hrothgar's stories and the thanes' heroism, but most of all, he comes to hear the Shaper. The Shaper's stories are Grendel's only education as they enlighten him to the history of the society that he yearns to