The Norton Anthology of World Literature not only makes available valuable lessons
and words of wisdom, but it shares experiences from around the world. These ageless
writings allow generations to encounter a heritage of tradition and culture all within the
confines of its pages. The anthology’s variety offers multiple characters and ideas to
explore, while each selection contains notable and impressionable material. The
collection’s most memorable content presents larger than life characters and priceless
lessons in Gilgamesh, astute ideas and guidelines to live by in Confucius, and the
universal experience of an impassioned relationship outlined in Lyrics.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the characters and their lesson arise as the most memorable
part of the story. Gilgamesh appears very impressive because of his great size and stately
presence (Tablet I: 30-38). In addition, he emerges more divine than human (Tablet I: 50)
and possesses the highest degree of strength (Tablet I: 36). Enkidu comes forth from clay
(Tablet I: 102-104) and endowed with the physical power of a hero. Upon his creation,
Enkidu also bears strength as mighty as Gilgamesh (Tablet I: 92). Gilgamesh and
Enkidu’s stature represent power and might, but the true memorable imposing impression
lies in the depth of the friendship they form. It begins in opposition (Tablet II: 96-108),
solidifies in a pact (Tablet II: 115), and continues on after Enkidu’s death (Tablet IX: 1).
The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu teaches that sharing experiences and hardships
creates the human experience.
The anthology also includes the Analects of Confucius. The “Sayings” outline
Confucius’ expectations regarding social behavior. His illustration in teaching a
principled truth or moral lesson makes the content so memorable. He exemplifies this in
Book I as he demonstrates a way of detecting a man’s true conviction to his moral and
ethical principles. Confucius attests that by comparing a man’s actions before and after
his father’s death, eventually the true measure of his character comes forth (Book I: 11)....