Poem Analysis: The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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The poem can be divided into two parts: A heroic story about a legendary king, and a narrative about a spiritual journey by a man who has just recognized his own mortality.
A. Gilgamesh is heroic in that he is partly divine. Moreover, his adventures are captured in an epic, which is a narrative poem written about a hero or heroines that display unparalleled bravery and courage.
B. The poem begins with Gilgamesh as a ruler who oppresses his people, who pray to the gods for relief.
1. The gods create Enkidu from clay and saliva as an alter-ego for Gilgamesh: half animal, half human, Enkidu is created to help rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance.
2. Enkidu is civilized by a prostitute who has relations with him, introduces him to shepherds – who teach
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Gilgamesh returns home empty-handed but becomes reconciled to the human lot: his own immortality will be the walls of Uruk.
6. The poem insists that Gilgamesh is a hero not just because of what he did but because of the knowledge and skill that he acquired throughout his travels.

II. The poem is rich and complex enough to be interpreted in various ways.
A. Enkidu’s story is a Mesopotamian parable of culture in which the protagonist moves from the wilderness to pastoral to city life.
1. The story captures a fall from primordial innocence and union with nature into self-consciousness and the severing of the bond with nature.
2. Enkidu kills animals that were once his friends and slays the guardian of the forests so they can be plundered.

B. The story of Gilgamesh is about coming to terms with mortality.
1. As part of his maturation process, Gilgamesh starts to see everything from a different perspective and better understands who he is and what he can accomplish.
2. The deepest wisdom comes to Gilgamesh from Utnapishtim: It is about understanding one’s role and responsibility in life and then performing it—in Gilgamesh’s case, to go home and resume his duties as king.
3. The poem encourages one to find time for civilized pleasures throughout

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