For centuries that the text of The Epic of Gilgamesh has existed, humanity has been able to enjoy its everlasting and always up-to-date lessons about life, death, identity, and the meaning of human existence. Therefore, the analysis of the text allows for identifying several key themes, one of the most tentative of which is the meaning of life. This post will concentrate on the discussion of the theme of the meaning of life as it is presented in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
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From the very first pages of the great poetry book, a reader is exposed to teaching and guiding narrative style. Using a highly metaphorical and story-telling style, the author delivers the themes and lessons through different characters and their journeys. Within the context of the theme of the meaning of life, the character of Enkidu might be analyzed. In the text, Enkidu is repeatedly asked, “As I look at you, Enkidu, you are like a god, why with the beasts do you wander the wild” (George, 1999, p. 72).
His continuous traveling represents life, while his purpose of encountering Gilgamesh demonstrates the higher purpose that guides a person through difficulties in life. When he encounters Gilgamesh, he shares his emotions freely and openly, stating, “Through sobbing [my legs do] tremble, terror has entered my heart” (George, 1999, p. 78). This episode shows that while wisdom and continuous knowledge of oneself and the world are pivotal in bringing meaning to life, self-reflection ensures clarity of judgment and proper development in life.
Conclusively, the analyzed episodes from the reading demonstrate how the theme of the meaning of life was addressed in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Viewed through the lens of Enkidu’s character, the meaning of life is seen as a combination of lessons, determination to purpose, self-learning and self-reflection, wisdom, and continuous improvement. Since these issues have always worried humanity, the text continues to be relevant to modern readers.
George, A. (Trans.). (1999). The epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Classics.