In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf follows a universal story of aging and life. Through his pains and triumphs he learns, along with the reader, about the world and himself. Through the battles that he fights, the changes in Beowulf are made apparent as he displays the innocence of youth, the wisdom of aging, and the inevitable decline in old age. Beowulf starts as a young hero. He travels the globe looking for brave deeds to accomplish. Youth is accompanied by foolish acts, when Beowulf fights Grendel he wears no armor and carries no weapons. This unnecessary bravery clearly shows the Beowulf, like all young people, has a sense of invincibility. Although Beowulf's actions seem heroic, he realizes that relying on strength alone will not always lead to success; he looses his universal youthful invincibility and ages with his wisdom. Grendel's Mother changes what Beowulf thought to be a heroic triumph into a fight for revenge. She attacks without warning and kills the king's advisor. Beowulf acts as a hero in his quick action, but his purpose has changed. Now instead of risking his life for fame, he is fighting for revenge. Dawned with his armor and weapons, he shows that he knows that he is not invincible. This revelation is common for youth who are finally thrown into the ``real world,'' invincibility is a dream of youth that is cast down by the wisdom that comes with age. Beowulf's revelation comes when the fighting turns from heroism for fame to a necessity for revenge. Beowulf enters into the abyss and returns an older and wiser man. For most young adults the abyss is college, a time away from parents and a normal routine, when they return they are older and wiser, just like Beowulf. Beowulf returns home to Geatland, older and wiser than when he left, but still a hero. He and his men tell stories of all of their heroic deeds and for the middle years of Beowulf's life, fifty years, he reflects on all that he has done. When the King of the Geats dies, Beowulf watches the King's son rise to the throne and then fall. Then he, with all the wisdom he has gained from his life, rises to the throne and learns again. Beowulf, as the king of Geatland, learns a great responsibility to his people. This responsibility of order and safety to his people is reflected by adults becoming parents. Parents must raise their children, educate them, and keep them safe, much like a king. When the dragon is discovered Beowulf sees his chance for one last heroic battle. He, like almost all other elderly adults, wants to relive the glory of his youth and the youthful feeling of invulnerability. Beowulf's fall from age old wisdom to youthful ignorance causes his defeat, leaving his people without a leader or the guidance of learned wisdom. Elderly people often try to relive some period in their life, most during a midlife crisis. Beowulf's midlife crisis comes rather late, at the end of his life, but he still follows the norm of wanting to relive a period of youth. Beowulf's life exemplifies a universal story. Starting with youthful ignorance, gaining wisdom through age and experience, and finally a regression to ignorance through a longing for youth long past. The universal life story completes a full circle, born into ignorance, wisdom with age, and finally death into newfound ignorance.
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