Existential Philosophy in John Gardner's Grendel

"What happened in Grendel was that I got the idea of presenting the Beowulf monster as Sartre, and everything that Grendel says Sartre in one mood or another has said, so that my love of Sartre kind of comes through as my love of the monster, though monsters are still monsters-I hope" (Harvey 86). Authors may develop their works around personal ideas as well as the ideas of others. During the 1960's, John Gardner became attracted to questions of evil, morality, and the meaning of existence in the world which can be found in the reemergence of existentialist philosophy during this time (Nutter 48). Existentialists believe in individual freedom as well as the personal responsibility that goes along with being free (OED). John Gardner ponders these universal questions about life and uses literature to help understand, develop, and dispense his ideas. He takes a stance against the mainstream and popular social movement of existentialism by satirizing the philosophy. Although he ponders about life's meaning, Gardner opposes the "social benefits of adopting an existentialist posture," while also believing that there is more to life than individual self-fulfillment (Nutter 50). In his novel Grendel, John...

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