Astrological Signs as Symbols in Grendel 12th Grade

In the novel Grendel, by John Gardner, the author associates each chapter with a different astrological sign, such as Aries, Gemini, and Sagittarius, not only to enhance the role of nature in the story, but also to better chronologize Grendel’s growth and retreat in his philosophical development. Furthermore, this designation even mimics that which he struggles to grasp: the knowledge of the continuation of the universe without him after his death, even though his world has come to an end.

Beginning the novel with the first sign, Aries, Gardner introduces the stereotypical trait of cyclical thinking. The ram, which is the symbol for Aries, indicates another spring coming around, spurring Grendel to lash out as he finds himself trapped in an “endless progression of moon and stars” (p.5). Not only does the “cyclical” trait indicate that Grendel is frustrated with the never-ending loop he feels stuck in, but it also, along with the mention of “moon and stars”, clues the reader in to the use of the signs as a vehicle to communicate Grendel’s own cycle from existentialist on to empiricist on to nihilist and back once again. In other words, the affirmation that Grendel’s own existence is, in itself, the very circular, repetitive...

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