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The conflict between good and evil is the poem's most important theme. The poet makes it clear, however, that good and evil don't exist as mutually exclusive opposites, but that both qualities are present in everyone. Beowulf represents the potential to do good- to perform acts selflessly and in the service of others- while Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon are consumed with the blind desire to act against people and to destroy them.

Yet pride, a human quality, is also a sign that evil exists. It's important, as Hrothgar points out to Beowulf, to protect oneself against feeling self-satisfied; you must not ignore the powers to do good with which you've been blessed. The transitoriness and instability of human existence make it essential that you never feel too self-important about what you've done.

The poet also makes clear our need for a code of ethics. Such a code allows members of society to relate to one another with understanding and trust. The most important bond in Anglo-Saxon society was the relation between king and warrior. When the Geat warriors break the bond by refusing to assist Beowulf in his battle with the dragon, the foundation of society collapses, and chaos rules....

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