Essay on The Norton Anthology of World Literature

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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


... middle of paper ...

...oken hearts makes

Lyrics’ contents memorable.

Because of the painstaking labor of the translators, each selection of The Norton

Anthology of World Literature retains and reflects its original intent. The difficulty lies in

trying to pick the most memorable content since each text contains its own

noteworthiness. First, Gilgamesh and Enkidu go unchallenged as memorable characters,

and their physical, intellectual, and moral greatness remain undisputed. Next, the words

of Confucius remain timeless in their wisdom and still provide a useful guide for life.

Finally, Catullus’ anguish repeats itself each time a lover gets jilted. The Norton

Anthology of World Literature contains valuable experiences and emotions from previous

generations, but only a dedicated commitment to reading them begets their full potential.

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