To a great extent, the Epic of Gilgamesh illustrates the self-discovery and moral transformation of the protagonist who cannot accept the brevity of his life. This is the main question that should be discussed in this paper. In particular, close attention should be paid to the quest pursued by Gilgamesh. His search has several purposes. In the beginning, the protagonist only wants to achieve immortality which can give the sense of superiority over other people. However, one should take into account that Gilgamesh is strongly affected by the death of Enkidu. Overall, his motives for starting this journey are eloquently described by the author of this poem.
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“Mad, perhaps insane, he tried,
To bring Enkidu back to life
To end his bitterness
His fear of death,
His life became a quest” (Mason 55).
To some extent, this quote indicates that the journey of Gilgamesh is not motivated only by selfishness. Certainly, he wants to achieve eternal life, but he also wants to revive his friend Enkidu. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward. It should be noted that Gilgamesh experienced significant emotional suffering. In particular, he is overwhelmed by the awareness of his mortality. The following quote describes his experiences,
“Death had taken the direction he had gained.
He was no more a king
But just a man who now had lost his way” (Mason 54).
As it has been said before, he does not want to admit that he is similar to other mortals. This feeling is extremely discomforting to him. He does not understand a human being is so limited, especially in comparison with gods. So, he strives to be on par with divine creatures. This is one of the main points that can be made while discussing the motives of the protagonist and relations with other characters of this epic poem.
Nevertheless, the reader can see that the quest transforms Gilgamesh. First of all, he learns that the secret of happiness lies in the ability of a person to live in peace with other people. Moreover, this epic poem emphasizes the sense of justice which prevents a person from mistreating others. This is one of the main issues that can be identified. Gilgamesh does not attain the initial goal of his quest, but he is able to accept his mortality. This quest helps him become a better ruler who is able to respect the dignity of others. This is one of the qualities that he lacks at the beginning of this poem. Overall, one can argue that this quest is fulfilled, but its results prove to be different from the initial intentions of Gilgamesh.
On the whole, this quest illustrates the moral transformation of the main character. In the beginning, Gilgamesh can be perceived as a cruel and wayward tyrant who only wants to indulge his whims. He is not concerned with the well-being of others. Yet, the death of Enkidu and his subsequent search for immortality shows changes the protagonist. This character eventually learns to be a better person and king. So, this poem should not be viewed as a description of a physical journey. More likely, one can say that it is a moral quest that brings unexpected results to the protagonist. This theme plays a central role in this poem.
Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003. Print.