Choices and Consequences in the Epic of Gilgamesh


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Choices and Consequences in the Epic of Gilgamesh


Consequences are inevitable. A decision made today will have consequences that can last years or even a lifetime. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu made choices that changed their lives forever. Consequences can be both positive and negative, but each is equally long lasting.

Such is the case with the story of Gilgamesh. Enkidu was made because Gilgamesh was not capable of being a good King. He was too arrogant and oppressive. Gilgamesh chose to be unfair to his people. Of course Enkidu ends up being a good addition to Gilgamesh's life. The friendship is beneficial to both Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

Enkidu had been perfectly content running in the forest with the wild animals. He never wanted more, possibly because he did not know how much more the world had to offer. Until Shamhat comes and takes Enkidu's innocence, Enkidu does not even search for more than he already has. He was happy to eat grass and share the animal's water hole. Enkidu loses his animal-like strength but gains understanding. At the end of his life, Enkidu briefly regrets his time with Shamhat, because of what it cost him. Shamash reminds him of the good that has come from his introduction to "civilization".

Boredom causes Gilgamesh and Enkidu to make another bad choice. Gilgamesh decides to make a name for him. Gilgamesh wants to go to the great cedar forest and cut down all the cedar trees. In order to do this they need to kill the Guardian of the Cedar Forest, Humbaba. Enkidu has seen this demon and initially tries to dissuade Gilgamesh. Enkidu is not the only one trying to discourage this adventure. The elders and Ninsun also try to discourage the adventure. Gilgamesh is given many opportunities to make a different choice, but does not choose to. He continues on to make a name for himself. Even in the midst of the battle Gilgamesh is given the opportunity to spare the life of Humbaba. Once again Gilgamesh makes a choice, he chooses to slay the great demon. Humbaba then curses Enkidu. Sometimes a choice may not only affect the one that makes the choice, but others also. Gilgamesh chooses to kill Humbaba. Enkidu even tries to talk Gilgamesh out of it, but in the end it was Gilgamesh that is cursed.

Later another choice that Gilamesh makes affects Enkidu. Ishtar wants Gilgamesh.

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Gilgamesh rejects Ishtar and makes her angry. This time it is hundreds of people that pay the price. Each time the bull snorts hundreds of people fall into the Earth.

Another choice is made and another consequence is required. Gilgamesh is afraid to die. Utnapishtim gives Gilgamesh a chance at immortality. Gilgamesh fails miserably at the test before him. He instantly falls asleep and sleeps for six days and seven nights. Gilgamesh denies that he has even been asleep, and Gilgamesh loses his chance at immortality. Utnapishtim shows him the bread that he had asked his wife to bake. Gilgamesh is so overwhelmed by this fear of death. Fears and other things in our lives forces decisions to be made that still have penalties. Consequences are still a reality though, even when choices are not actually a free choice.

Consequences can be a source of good and bad in a life. Such as we see with Gilgamesh. Some of his choices lead to good things and some lead to bad. Still the ability to make choices far outweighs the penalties that may need to be paid.

Works Cited

Lawall, Sarah The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces Seventh Edition Volume 1

W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. Copyright 1984

http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MESO/GILG.HTM


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