Images of machinery regularly appear in Grendel's thoughts and seem to help him to understand both himself and his world. It is an odd, strangely modern image for an old organic cave-monster like Grendel.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines machine as

1. a. A device consisting of fixed and moving parts that modifies mechanical energy and transmits it in a more useful form. b. A simple device, such as a lever, a pulley, or an inclined plane, that alters the magnitude or direction, or both, of an applied force; a simple machine.
2. A system or device for doing work, as an automobile or a jackhammer, together with its power source and auxiliary equipment.
3. A system or device, such as a computer, that performs or assists in the performance of a human task: The machine is down.
4. An intricate natural system or organism, such as the human body.
5. A person who acts in a rigid, mechanical, or unconscious manner.
6. An organized group of people whose members are or appear to be under the control of one or more leaders: a political machine.
7. a. A device used to produce a stage effect, especially a mechanical means of lowering an actor onto the stage. b. A literary device used to produce an effect, especially the introduction of a supernatural being to resolve a plot.

Above all, a machine has no choice, no free will. It must do what it has been designed to do. And that is all. Because it lacks this freedom, it need not worry about the morality of its functioning. But you might argue that humans who use the machine must decide on how to use it, and this involves choice between right and wrong. This is true, if you grant free will to humans. But what if we are also just machines, as Grendel seems to think, "blind, mindless, mechanical"?

See seventeenth century mechanism, an offshoot of Cartesianism, which claims that living things are essentially machines; the materialism of Thomas Hobbes; and Isaac Newton's mechanistic world view as precursor's to Grendel's peculiarly modern problem.

Consider also the significance of the term "accident" in this mechanical context.

A persistent scholar might also seek out:

Spraycar, Rudy S. "Mechanism and Medievalism in John Gardner's Grendel." Science Fiction Dialogues. Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1982. 141-52.

view complete index A - L

view complete index M - Z