Gender Roles between Defiance and Compliance: Peace-weavers and Vindictive Women in Beowulf
Tariq Jameel Alsoud

This essay investigates the portrayal of different feminine traits, stereotypes, and expectations in Beowulf, focusing mainly on the performance and concerns of Wealhtheow and Grendel‘s mother. The poem exemplifies two incompatible images of women whose conduct and aspirations range between conformity and transgression concerning the interaction with the conventions of Anglo-Saxon society. Grendel‘s mother epitomizes a powerful adversarial force that threatens order in a male-dominated society and undermines peace achievements. In contrast, Wealhtheow, by virtue of her sociopolitical status, incarnates a strong personality but still circulates within the domestic sphere since she accepts a traditional gender role, which is a peace-fostering mission between feuding tribes through institutionalized marriage. The poem gives prominence to their origin, status, shape, and mood, so it correlates Wealhtheow, as a ―land-dweller,‖ with exquisite feminine beauty which manifests through her gold-adorned figure and her aesthetic reason; whereas it connects Grendel‘s mother, as an ―alien spirit‖ who dwells on moors, with repulsive images and spiteful connotations whose sole role is to terrorize peaceful civilians through aggression and vengeance. Finally, the essay helps the Anglo-Saxon literature reader comprehend some essential women‘s issues by explicating the poet‘s projection of feminine attitudes, expected social codes and norms, and gender stereotyping, all of which are highlighted through the depiction of these characters and multifaceted events.

Full Text: PDF      DOI: 10.15640/ijgws.v10n2a2