The Question Essay

1522 words - 6 pages

"˜The Question' We, as human beings, have heard our fair share of trite, depressing moral dilemmas. We are involved in a universal, high-speed race towards some ambiguous answer. This answer, this goal is indefinable by any human standards. And since the dawn of man, the human race has spent its existence on earth, fruitlessly, trying to answer the unanswerable. In fact, the beginnings of literature were founded under the general premise that there is some force directing the mystic "light at the end of the tunnel." Gilgamesh, the Akkadian epic, is one of the endless examples of literature's contribution to the search "" the perpetual, indistinct question. While, ultimately, this universal question deals with the mortality of mankind, it is also comprised of many smaller issues, such as fame, nobility, and an obscure, but ever-present internal struggle to find one's self. And Gilgamesh, the god-human king of Uruk, serves as a model for everything pertaining to this question.The construction of an epic becomes extremely apparent with the first line of Gilgamesh. The narrator is "proclaim[ing] to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh." It is obvious to any well-read individual that the text has a hero, and that there will be, throughout the piece, a blatant attempt to find a solution to a "burning" human dilemma. The following lines affirm this assumption, as the narrator continues to glorify the supernatural qualities of Gilgamesh. The hero is apparently extremely brave, beautiful, renowned and wise. He has built sturdy, immaculate city walls and provided the citizens with a wealth of knowledge on "secret things." He "brought [them] a tale of the days before the flood." The narrator makes a point, in the beginning and throughout the passage, to explain the divinity of Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god and one-third human. This blend of divinity and humanity, as is stated soon afterward in the passage, however, does not ensure immortality. Now it is apparent exactly which moral-human dilemma is being dealt with in this particular epic. The narrator has laid the foundation for a quest, this quest being the search for immortality. It is important to remember how this hero is being portrayed, because this ties into one of the many components of the ultimate question. Gilgamesh possesses all the qualities of a typical epic hero "" he, like nearly all heroes, is brave, strong, wise, beautiful "" he commands every form of prowess possible and impossible. This information, rather than pointing to success, lays the foundation for Gilgamesh's demise. Fame is one component of the ultimate question. Humans have always had a passion for that which suggests fame. And, later in the epic, Gilgamesh proclaims that he will establish his name, "in the place where famous names are written." This desire to live eternally, even if only in name, not only displays the human desire for recognition, but also the larger issue of mortality Gilgamesh, like all of humanity on...

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