People believe in things. They believe strongly. And when those beliefs are broken, they often feel personally betrayed by that. This is the idea expressed in John Gardner's Grendel. In this story, Gardner illustrates what can happen when everything a person believes is challenged and how they may react to that.
Grendel, in this story, represents the common man. He is not overly intelligent, but nor is he stupid. He illustrates human emotions and thought processes. The Shaper, as well as many of the "human" characters represent the belief in God, and the dragon represents the idea of atheism. In the beginning, Grendel believes in the power of the Shaper. He is moved by the Shaper's words and lyrics and begins to believe in the Shaper's visions of God, and history and glory. "The man had changed the world, had torn up the past by its thick, gnarled roots and had transmuted it, and they, who knew the truth, remembered it his way-and so did I."
(Pg. 43). Even though Grendel felt that he knew what had happened, the beauty of the Shaper's words and songs altered his mind set and turned him onto the "truth" as the Shaper knew it. He was upset by that because the Shaper portrayed him as a monster and a demon, but was so overcome by the song, that he couldn't argue. "He told of an ancient feud. between two brothers which split the world between darkness and light. And I, Grendel, was the dark side, he said in effect. The terrible race God cursed. I believed him. Such was the power of the Shaper's harp!" (51).
Then Grendel experienced something new. Something which changed his views and offered him a new way of thinking. He met the dragon. The...