Imagery and Values in Beowulf Essay

In Beowulf, strong sensory imagery emphasizes the societal values of courage and fate. The imagery stresses the importance of courage as an admired and respected trait for any person in the Anglo-Saxon society. The imagery also enhances fate as the ruler of men’s destinies. As the images collect throughout the poem, the reader realizes how these strong societal values in turn enhance this heroic battle between good and evil. The poet uses strong and beautiful sensory imagery to emphasize courage.

When Beowulf speaks of his youth and the challenges that he faced, he states, “I swam/In the blackness of night, hunting monsters/Out of the ocean, and killing them one/By one;…”(176-180) This quote emphasizes how brave one must be to venture into this ocean. Beowulf chooses to fight Grendel with no weapon stating, “My lord Higlac/Might think less of me if l let my sword/Go where my feet were afraid to, if I hid/Behind some broad linden shield: my hands/Alone shall fight for me, struggle for life/Against the monster. (191-196) Fighting Grendel with no weapon shows the true bravery of Beowulf and how he wants to honor his lord with his courage. During the battle with Grendel, Beowulf is described by the poet as “That mighty protector of men…” (444)

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This imagery represents how the Anglo-Saxon society recognizes Beowulf as one of the most heroic men of their era. The poet uses strong sensory imagery to portray how this societies belief in the inevitability of fate. When Beowulf is anticipating his battle with Grendel, he states, “Fate will unwind as it must! (211) This is piece of imagery showing how this society sees fate as being predetermined and is simply unwinding like a filmstrip. When Beowulf speaks of swimming in the ocean and being attacked by a sea monster, he says, “…fate let me/Find its heart with my sword, hack myself/Free;…”(275-277) After he kills several more monsters he says, “Fate saves/The living when they drive away death by themselves! ” (292-293) These quotes personify fate as a guardian sending Beowulf aid.

In this story of the battle between good and evil, good triumphs over evil to make the heroic tale of Beowulf. The imagery presented by the poet has a strong effect on the reader. It also shows how courage and fate are uniquely tied together. When the reader fully understands the how the story is laid out and has a better understanding of the plot, he/she can understand the vast differences between good and evil and this makes the triumph over evil much more enjoyable.

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