Gender Roles in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

Gender Roles in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of Gilgamesh, a man who was two-thirds god that was saved by companionship. Gilgamesh was a cruel and careless king, who spent his time raping women, exhausting citizens, and conquering foes and foreign lands until he met, fought and was guided by his great friend and soul mate, Enkidu. With the help of Enkidu and his influence, he learned compassion as well as wisdom and integrity, and eventually Gilgamesh became a great and fair king. Though the story focuses mainly on Gilgamesh and his friendship with Enkidu, there are several roles played by women that help to make and move the story along. Without these important women who show great strength and feminine qualities despite being oppressed by the patriarchy, Gilgamesh would not have been the great king he was meant to be.
In the story, a women’s status is clear. Women are deemed as less important and less powerful compared to men. However, they are important and powerful characters that drive the story with their feminine qualities. Men often use women to gain for themselves, regardless of the outcome for the women. One of the women mentioned at the beginning of the story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” is Shamhat, a harlot taken to seduce and tame Enkidu, by the hunter who discovers Enkidu. Shamhat is told to use her womanly ways to seduce Enkidu, dragging him away from his wild beast life. “Treat him, a human, to women’s work” (The Epic of Gilgamesh 104), There was no concern whatsoever to Shamhat’s well-being or safety. Yes, she was a harlot, but she was put in serious danger when she was used as bait to lure a wild man away from other wild beasts.
Another example of women being controlled by a patriarchy in The Epic of Gilgamesh is the go...

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...y, as they are the characters that move the story forward. Shamhat’s seduction abilities, as well as Utnapishtim’s wife’s compassion, along with the help of Ninsun and Ishtar, the protagonists in the story moved forward. The women in the story display examples of feminine qualities and the overall strength women possess. The Epic of Gilgamesh shows that a women’s touch can tame even the wildest of men, and that a women’s wrath can send them spiraling. It also shows the nurturing and caring side of women, through their wisdom and compassion for others. Had it not been for these women and their places in society, Gilgamesh would never have accomplished all that he did.

Works Cited
"The Epic of Gilgamesh." The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton & Compnany, 2012. 99-150. Print

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