Love and Death in The Epic of Gilgamesh Essay example

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Love and Death in The Epic of Gilgamesh

Abstract: The most interesting stories invariably are about love and death. These two themes underlie the Epic of Gilgamesh, a mythic tale of the quest for immortality. Gilgamesh, profoundly affected by the death of his friend Enkidu at the hands of the gods, questions the injustice of life. Finding no answer, he of course tries to change—indeed, eliminate—the question by seeking immortality. The following essay examines Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s relationship, and the effect of Enkidu’s death on Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh’s failure in the end attests the intertwining of love and death in a relationship. Woody Allen once stated, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it
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An incomplete being, nearing godhood but still mortal, Gilgamesh must face the possibility of death. When Enkidu is created to oppose him by acting as a counterbalance, an alter-ego, the two men mutually elevate each other above their individual failings as demi-gods. They become heroes, a union greater than the sum of their individual characters. Their initial meeting in front of the bridal house symbolizes this union: they consummate their relationship by wrestling with each other, testing and probing the other’s strength and weakness, trying to find out if the one is worthy of the other’s respect. Although Gilgamesh defeats Enkidu and thereby wins his respect, Enkidu is not ashamed of the loss. The apparent defeat symbolizes the give-and-take inherent in any relationship: Enkidu gives, and Gilgamesh takes.

A common means to attain immortality is to have children, a means for those who lack a special talent to create art; as long as one’s generation of children lives on, one also lives on. Gilgamesh and Enkidu, however, cannot go this route. They must find another way, and deeds of strength and courage best suit their mesomorphic characters. As Gilgamesh puts it, “Only the gods live forever...but as for us men, our days are numbered, our occupations are a breath of wind” (71). So the two quest for immortality by destroying monsters and achieving fame through their success. But Enkidu’s death shatters the hope Gilgamesh places in fame; the spirit

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