Global Issue Discussed in Chapter 4 of ‘Grendel’

In chapter 4, the author addresses the global issue of educational propaganda. Gardner uses Grendel as the narrator and carries out an extended metaphor of how people are undergoing biased education and blindly believing it. Gardner does this by portraying the Shaper as the educator, the king Hrothgar as the learner, and Grendel as a character from a different culture who has different believes than the students. The author first creates a contrast between the ideas of “a glorious meadhall whose light would shine to the ends of the ragged world” (Gardner, Chapter 4) and “The thought took seed”. The idea of an eternal meadhall is really abstract and impossible to accomplish, yet the Shaper made it sound so real that a king as “great” as Hrothgar is believing it. This action of implanting false information into the learner’s mind while the learner has no idea of the validity of that information. For example, if you read about dihydrogen monoxide with no prior knowledge of the component of water, you would’ve fall into the trap of believing that this substance is actually harmful. When other people whose not involved in this situation, in this case Grendel, see this, they will easily find out the absurdity in the education. Grendel points out the flaw by understanding the most basic motivation of the educator, “by changing men’s minds [the Shaper] makes the best of it”, but then contradicts himself with “and it wasn’t true”. This shows a sense of concern that Gardner has towards the reason why people are doing this false education but somewhat have an idea of that; more importantly, Gardner points out the irony and raises awareness of this problem through Grendel’s realization of himself being affected while being a side-listener. Later on the chapter, Grendel says to the audience that he “knew very well that all [the Shaper] said was ridiculous”, but Grendel “was swept up” by what the Shaper has said. By introducing this part, Gardner addresses the chain effect that will occur with the educational propaganda: one victim may spread this false information to many others and thus create a “snowball” effect. Gardner, again, emphasizes his awareness and concern about the educational propaganda that is happening in the world.

3 thoughts on “Global Issue Discussed in Chapter 4 of ‘Grendel’

  1. The way you link the blind educational system in Grendel with our real-life propaganda issues relating to education is interesting. It is well-shown by Gardner’s work how an influencing individual could dramatically change the ideas of an entire crowd. More importantly, when one is doing this knowledge spreading action to educate people, as long as this person is convincing enough, the reality and the truth of the knowledge being spread eventually do not matter anymore. People in the meadhall are easily influenced by the songs of the Shaper without even verifying whether what they start to believe is actually real or not. Nowadays, people sometimes tend to ignore the process of making sure the reliability of certain information they are given by others, and the blindness of those people could lead them to serious issues in their future.

    1. Good point about the reliability of sources! This could also act as a caution reminder for us to evaluate our sources while doing researches (especially for EE)! Here’s a question: what would you do if you see someone being taught biased knowledge?

  2. For the most part of the education that I am getting so far, my instructors and teachers are open to having critical thinking and group discussions among the students. When different perspectives are being shared, we would get a better chance to do the corroboration process for evaluating the knowledge we are learning. If people are taught things that are biased, I would suggest them to apply critical thinking and get information on the topic from different point of views.

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