Gold in Grendel

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Gold has many different uses. In John Gardner’s novel Grendel, it is used as a motif to symbolize different aspects of a character. Though it has a constant meaning throughout the novel, it also differs according to each character. Gardner uses gold as a symbol of majesty as well as protection, greed and power throughout the novel especially related to the characters of the Shaper, Hrothgar and the Dragon respectively. To the Shaper, gold …

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…that he will also perish, so he wants to gather all the gold that he can to display his power while he still lives. For, unlike Grendel, he “covets gold, not souls (1).” Gold can mean different things to different individuals. To some, like the Shaper, it can cover their eyes from corruption. Yet, for others, like the Dragon and Hrothgar, it can become the source of their corruption. Everything depends on what their desire is.