Beowulf

Point of View

Beowulf is told from a third-person omniscient point of view. The poem’s narrator has access to the interior thoughts and feelings of all the characters, even the dragon. The narrator also comments on the action, usually to draw out moral implications: “Behavior that’s admired / is the path to power among people everywhere” (ll.24-5). By switching between the perspectives of different characters, the poem underlines a central theme: that violence causes more violence. For instance, by telling the story of Hygelac’s victory over the Swedes largely from the Swedish king Ongentheow’s point of view (ll.2949-2981), the poem emphasizes the suffering of the Swedes and the inevitability of their desire for vengeance. When the poem switches to Grendel’s point of view during his fight with Beowulf, the reader understands that violence causes suffering and calls forth vengeance even when it is used against an unmistakably evil opponent.