Free «Similar and Different Traits of “Beowulf” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.» Essay
The paper examines the traits of Beowulf with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in order to show similarity and difference between their characters and activity. The aim of it is to discover whether there are some qualities which allow to denote the connection between these great people, or it is fallaciously to consider them to be of the same type heroes. The paper also points out virtues, which allow heroes to be granted such a lofted position in the eyes of their peers, society and history.
Some people tend to connect a hero of Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf with a great leader of the American Civil Rights movement Dr. Martin Luther King, taking into account their accomplishments for their people. However they lived in different times with different rules and laws, by different traditions and customs. So, what can be similar between them? Is it really something in their life and activity or characters that makes them alike to some extent. What exactly can this connection unfold?
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So, before the analyses of their characters and areas of activity, it will be appropriate to identify their place in the world and history.
Thus, Beowulf is a main character of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf”. He is an ideal epic hero, a perfect soldier and a wise leader, who brings prosperity to his kingdom.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is known as an American minister, activist and a leader of the American Civil Rights movement, which helped African Americans gain the same rights as white during the 1950s and 1960s. “In 1964, the U.S. government passed the Civil Rights Act, which ended segregation”. (Miller 12) He is best known for his role in the progress of civil rights using nonviolent civil contumacy. King has become a national icon in the history of American progressivism.
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Thereby, Beowulf is a hero in the Anglo-Saxon period, to who the qualities of those in the twentieth century, such as great allegiance and worship, are not alien. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is considered to be a twentieth century hero, who is known and greatly respected all over the world. Both of them worth the status of hero, as nobody can argue their benefactions. Their life and activity have a significant place in people’s memory.
Speaking about Beowulf, people assert that there existed no one warrior who could outmatch his superior ability to govern people in the Anglo-Saxon period. In the same manner, supporting Martin Luther King Jr. people acknowledge that unless he were a part of history, the situation in the United States would not be as favorable as it is now. Their attainments are generally reputed and their heritage is unforgettable.
Both of them were born to tussle with evil. They have a curtain task to fulfill. Their aim is to bring peace, quiet and prosperity to the people of their community. Dr. Martin Luther King does it all without desiring some kind of glory or benefits, being inspired and influenced by Christ, whereas Beowulf does not cast away the idea of being praised. “Unlike Christ, Beowulf actively seeks praise and glory” (Rosensfit 3).
Speaking about religious views of these two heroes one can admit that it is commonly known that Dr. Martin Luther King has been a Baptist minister. He is much influenced by Christ, and as a matter of fact all the formation of his views, principles and values had a great impact of Christian preaches. His dream is to live in a peaceful and fair world which is an idea of Christianity. As to Beowulf, I should admit that there is a dilemma which concerns the question of the presence Christian views in the poem, and consequently, in the character of the hero:
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Most critics agree that the heroic action of the poem is thoroughly accommodated to a Christian paradigm; they disagree, however, on the meaning and purpose of that accommodation. Some scholars such as Alan Cabaniss and M. B. McNamee have argued that Beowulf, who gives hid life for his people, should be seen as a type of Christ, while others, most notably Margaret Goldsmith, have read Beowulf as a condemnation of pagan pride, greed and violence (Liuzza 32)
Beowulf’s actions are noble, but with a hint ofselfish benefit, that differs much from the actions of Christ, and consequently, from the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Beowulf acts like a warrior bringing safety and harmony to his people, while Martin Luther King Jr. struggles for the rights of equality for everybody in spite of race, color, or gender. So, their methods of conquering evil differ, as Beowulf has to cope with physical evil embodied in the monster Grendel, and the area of King’s activity is related more to a moral evil such as racism. Therefore, while Beowulf does all his best to save his people from a monster, defending him with a sword and fire, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fights against racism carrying through reforms.
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However, taking into account the whole poem “Beowulf”, it will be appropriate to notice that there is some political side if it:
Behind the drama of autonomous and isolated hand-to-hand encounters against monstrous adversaries, Beowulf is an intensely political poem; the poet is as intrigued by Danish diplomacy and the bitter feud of between the Geats and Swedes as he is by the hero’s battles. (Liuzza 16).
So, hearing about a great calamity, Beowulf quickly makes an order to equip boats. “From the group of companions who hid- come to manhood, at the same time as himself, Beowulf selected fourteen earls to accompany him” (Riggs 20). He is absorbed in his desire to sail to fight with Grendel, the monster of murk who causes death and destruction.
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Martin Luther King Jr., in the same mode, rejects racial segregation, which humiliates black people:
Martin Luther King Jr. was born into a system of segregation that separated black people and white people. From an early age, Martin saw that the system was unjust. (Manheimer 8).
He appeals to gain the right to be equally protected under the law regardless of race.
During their struggle against the evil, neither Beowulf nor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses weapon. Though both of them have some support from others, it is as if in the background. The toil rests just in their shoulders. So, Beowulf refuses to fight with the sword, to gain more praise from his lord Higlac. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also struggles against prejudices and racism without weapon. He does it through meetings, where his speeches have a great influence on people.
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So, Beowulf’s way of struggle is physical, whereas the one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. refers to the diplomacy: Even being beat and humiliated, he refuses to use physical strength in his activity. He knows that using his spirit and mind he can gain more effective results then using some rude actions:
King believed segregation could be changed in a peaceful way. King organized marches, sit-ins, and boycotts. King gave speeches encouraging people to support equal rights for all Americans (Miller 10).
In his most famous speech “I have a dream”, King shares his big desire to live in a fair and peaceful world. Another King’s speech “A Time to Break Silence” shows how he publicly opposes the Vietnam War and links militarism with racism and poverty on the domestic front. (Wilson 213).
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Speaking about the way these heroes die, one can admit that the death of Martin Luther King is sudden. Having a splendid triumph in his political activity, he is assassinated by one opponent of his views and precepts. Hereby Dr. Martin Luther King is unable to find out what a great impact his accomplishments have made on America today, furthermore, it could be the greatest reward for him. However Beowulf derives benefit from his hard work. His destiny is to be a King and to continue to take part in many battles for life. Beowulf’s death does not astonish his people and army, who were aware of his weakness and illness. Furthermore, at that time it was usual to know that all the warriors had their last battle, in which they died. It also concerns Beowulf.
Beowulf as well as Dr. Martin Luther King is honored with some forms of remembrance. A temple was built in Beowulf’s honor, where his remains repose.
As to King, every third Monday of January people celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.. The holiday is always close to King’s birthday – January 15. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day flags are flown as a respect for the civil rights leader. (Miller 5).
So, Beowulf and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. definitely have some common traits as well as differences. Both of them are great men of their time. They have a special talent to reach out to minds and hearts of a wide variety of people. Their excessive toil is priceless and unforgettable.