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Gilgamesh’s Search for Immortality: Inevitability of Death in a Story

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an interesting work to analyze on the topic of life and death. It is one of the oldest literary works that have survived to this day, extremely psychological in its essence. This epic is composed of old material, but the old legends were woven into a new whole and were grouped around a new theme, the theme of death. Salvation from death is one of its central themes, and this theme remains relevant to our existence in the present. The Epic of Gilgamesh is generally the story of one man’s journey to outfox’s demise, and, strangely, the needs of a contemporary American have not changed much.

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The protagonist of the Epic is Gilgamesh, a mighty hero, the king of Uruk. Being a full-fledged ruler in his state, possessing power, wealth, excellent health, and remarkable physical strength, Gilgamesh spends his youth in entertainment, carnal pleasures, and feats of arms, fully enjoying life. He has a best friend named Enkidu. Enkidu is a man who lives in harmony with nature, surrounded by beasts and understands them, a mighty and glorious warrior whose strength is not inferior to Gilgamesh. Friends are completely inseparable: they travel together, experience dangers and adventures, and perform feats. But suddenly, due to some circumstances, Enkidu dies. And after that, Gilgamesh’s life completely changes.

Until Enkidu falls ill and dies, death meant little to Gilgamesh. Before that, he had the usual standards of a fearless hero and the usual standards of his civilization: that death is inevitable, and there is no need to worry about it. If destined to die, let his death be glorious, met in battle with a worthy adversary, so that his glory continues to live. Death never touched him directly, in all its harsh reality, but this happens when Enkidu dies. He even denies the fact of his friend’s death in lines, ‘now what is this sleep which has seized you? You have turned dark and do not hear me!’ (Gilgamesh 31). The thought of death continues to haunt Gilgamesh.

The ‘fearless’ king is obsessed with only one goal which is to find eternal life, and he goes in search of her. At the end of the world, beyond the waters of death, lives his ancestor, who attained eternal life. All who come across him during his wanderings, he asks about the path to Utnapishtim, the one who won death, and about immortality. Gilgamesh shares his fears with him by saying, ‘The Snatcher has taken hold of my flesh, in my bedroom Death dwells, and wherever I set foot there too is Death’ (Gilgamesh 49). All answer him that the search is hopeless. But Gilgamesh cannot surrender, cannot condemn himself to a common fate. The thirst for immortality consumes him and pulls him forward.

The Mesopotamians had a dark view of death. They accepted their lives were loaded with affliction and agony delivered by the divine beings; that their view on the afterlife was far more regrettable than the existence they were at that point persevering. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, numerous characters experience demise in a frightful yet unavoidable way like Humbaba, Enkidu, and others. Notwithstanding their demise being horrifying, the common substance was the dread of death. Humbaba argued for his life when Gilgamesh was all set in for the murder. Enkidu fears the revile that anticipates him passing on before Gilgamesh. The epic portrays demise through different characters, with its message of mortality being sure yet dreaded due to the Mesopotamians’ skeptical viewpoint on life.

Critically, it is Enkidu’s demise that makes Gilgamesh face his own mortality. The epic shows that through the associations with others, individuals can awaken to life as it truly is, instead of being misdirected in reasoning that their achievements will keep going forever. Gilgamesh noted, ‘Only the gods can dwell forever with Shamash! As for human beings, their days are numbered, and whatever they keep trying to achieve is but wind!’ (Gilgamesh 10). From the outset, Enkidu’s passing makes Gilgamesh become fixated on beating his own mortality. This persuades his quest for the key to never-ending life. After he loses the plant that reestablishes youth, however, he comes to acknowledge that he will stay mortal, and all that he can expect is to carry out beneficial things and offer what he realized to individuals of Uruk.

In conclusion, regardless of the characteristics throughout everyday life, similar to all men, Gilgamesh needed to at last die. The Epic offers no simple responses to the topic of mortality and significance, in any case, surrenders to the certainty of death. Despite Gilgamesh’s death, his heritage is preserved, and he is really focused on the afterlife. Even though the name he made for himself will ultimately be neglected, there is the esteem in having been valued and grieved, and his companionship with Enkidu, most importantly, had significance in itself. In spite of the way that Gilgamesh was written in the old times and is the most established scholarly work known today, it enormously looks like the thoughts of death shared by many Americans in the modern world. The readers still can relate to the main character’s fears of death and thoughts of the afterlife.

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Gilgamesh. (1998). (M. G. Kovacs, Trans., W. Carnahan, Ed.).

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