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.