Essay, Research Paper: Beowulf And Ideal Man

Literature: Beowulf

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The epic Beowulf shows us how a mans’ character is tested as he encounters
difficult situations. The unknown author of Beowulf, leaves behind a mystique,
an intriguing quality with which the character which hold our interest. The
modern-day hero, Superman, also possesses these same qualities. Their modest
actions are what helped these hero’s to become their peoples’ “ideal
man.” The first quality that earns a person’s respect between Beowulf and
Superman is wealth. Neither of these men had a considerable amount of money.
This helps the every day man relate to them more easily. In the epic,
Beowulf’s home is far away from his lord’s castle. We get the sense that
Beowulf is an outcast because of the lengthy distance to reach his kingdom. In
stories such as these, the outcasts are perceived to be the poorer of the people
in the kingdom. Like Beowulf, Superman lives in seclusion from the society in
which he lives. He apartment is purposely set on the opposite side of town from
everyone he works with. In relation to the common man’s life-style, we can
easily assume that Superman does not make much money. This fact is defined by
Superman’s day job as a reporter for the city of Metropolis. The “ideal
man” of past and present has to posses the quality of intelligence. Beowulf
shows great intelligence in his approach towards his battles. In his battle with
Grendel, Beowulf uses a soldier for a decoy to expose Grendel’s strengths:
Grendel snatched at the first Geat He came to, ripped him apart, cut His body to
bits with powerful jaws, Drank the blood from his veins and bolted Him down,
hands and feet; death And Grendel’s great teeth came together, Snapping life
shut. The he stepped to another Still body, clutched at Beowulf with his claws,
Grasped at a strong-hearted wakeful sleeper -And was instantly seized himself. .
.(Raffel 314-323). This passage shows us how Beowulf’s planning ahead led him
to victory. By exposing the monster’s strengths as well as his tactics,
Beowulf was able to counter-attack the monster and win. The second time when
Beowulf shows us his intelligence is when he goes fights Grendel’s mother: She
welcomed him in her claws. Clutched at him savagely but could not harm him.
Tried to work her fingers through the tight Ring-woven mail on his breast, but
tore And scratched in vain. . .(Raffel 475-479). Although his armor did not
ultimately stop her, it slowed her down and gave Beowulf time to overcome her.
For Superman, his intelligence comes from experience. Because of his daily duty
of “protector of the Earth,” Superman reacts instantly to the problems he
faces. When he fights enemies, Superman tries to have the fight on his terms. He
lures the criminals out of the cities, away from the people. If that’s not
possible he takes care of business in a quick and orderly fashion. He does this
by keeping the innocent bystander out of the way. The quality that is the most
overwhelming of all is Beowulf’s and Superman’s superhuman attributes.
“For hours he sank through the waves” (Beowulf 469). Here Beowulf is
swimming down to fight Grendel’s mother. Being underwater for so long makes
him supernatural. An ordinary human can’t hold their breath for more then a
minute, let alone a few hours. Superman has many superhuman qualities. He has
ex-ray vision which lets him see through wall and other things so he can see
what is going on. He has inferred eye sight with which he is able to melt
objects with. Lastly, Superman has the ability to fly. This quality by itself is
what gives him the most admiration by the people. Seeing a person fly is a great
experience for the people of Metropolis. Not all heroes can “fly faster than a
speeding bullet,” but each hero can share similar characteristics through the
eyes of the perceiver. There is an expectation of what a hero is supposed to be.
Thus, by comparing and contrasting Superman and Beowulf’s traits, we can
attribute their qualities to the “ideal man.” There will be obstacles to
face, but a hero will overcome the challenges as demonstrated by Superman and
Beowulf. We all hold in our heart the ability to become a “hero” or the
“ideal man.”
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