…When we study this battle [between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf] separately, we can see that Beowulf is not at a disadvantage, for both he and Grendel’s mother act like human-monster hybrids, making this a battle between equals. Ultimately, this gives Beowulf more control over his fate than Tolkien suggests, making Beowulf more accountable for the hypocritical actions he could otherwise blame on his desperation. […]
The author provides evidence for Beowulf’s monstrosity in the first battle, when Beowulf states: “it won’t be a cutting edge I wield / to mow [Grendel] down… since [Grendel] has no idea of the arts of war” (Beowulf 681-683). While this seems noble, it forces us to wonder how Beowulf is able to tear Grendel’s arm off without weapons. He must possess some monstrous strength to do so, placing him at the same level as Grendel’s mother.
Since Beowulf and Grendel’s mother are equally matched because of his monstrous strength and her human nature, we cannot merely excuse Beowulf as Tolkien does, for Beowulf is not helpless. He is therefore obligated to live up to the standards of honor he creates when he sheds his weapons in the first battle.
In this revised version of my first essay for writing seminar, my goal was to undermine Tolkien’s argument about Beowulf’s disadvantages in battle by arguing that Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, who fights Beowulf in the second battle of the story, are equally matched because both are portrayed as human-monster hybrids. While I initially had only focused on the humanity of Grendel’s mother, arguing that her portrayal as a mother established her humanity, I realized I could not ignore the fact that she was seen as a monster, that she was not completely human, which led me to the idea of the human-monster hybrid.
I became committed to the idea of the human-monster hybrid before finding evidence to suggest that Beowulf could be described by this label. Thus, when I ended up finding limited evidence actually suggesting Beowulf’s hybrid nature, I glossed over it. For example, in the passage above, I argue that Beowulf’s brute strength proves his monstrosity, providing only one small piece of evidence of this–that Beowulf can tear off Grendel’s arm. This insufficient evidence, compared to my detailed analysis of Grendel’s mother, forces the reader to accept the largely unsupported claim of Beowulf’s monstrousness to understand my remaining arguments.
To revise this treatment of evidence, I would have started by searching for more evidence to support my claim about Beowulf’s hybrid nature. This would have allowed me to avoid making an unsupported, ad hominem attack against Beowulf and ultimately more convincingly communicate my point that the author may have intended us to hold Beowulf accountable for his brutality. I would have also grounded my thesis in the evidence I found showing that we are not meant to admire Beowulf unconditionally, rather than making such an absolute and simplistic claim that Beowulf and Grendel’s mother are both human-monster hybrids, which detracted from my intended point.