Essay Sample on Love and Gender in Gilgamesh

Published: 2023-03-16
Essay Sample on Love and Gender in Gilgamesh
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Historical literature Gender in literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 854 words
8 min read

Gilgamesh is an epic story that features various characters such as Enkidu and Shamhat and Humbaba, among others. The story addresses various themes, with one of the major themes being that of love and friendship. In Gilgamesh, love is portrayed in two dissimilar dimensions, with one facet expressing a love that can heal and the other one showing a love that can destroy.

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In the Gilgamesh, love is used as an aspect that changes things, situations and people for better. When love is exercised, things that would have otherwise gone haywire are seen to take a proper route. For example, Gilgamesh is depicted as a leader who changed from his cruelty to a more loving king and this helps the people of his kingdom. At the outset, Gilgamesh is shown as a cruel ruler who is feared by the people. It is stated, "I will stamp my fame on the minds of men forever" (Mitchell 117). However, once he becomes a friend of Enkidu, he changes the way he does things.

He becomes a better king who values his people. In this instance, it is Enkidu's love that helps Gilgamesh find a purpose in life. Despite Gilgamesh's hard heart, it is softened by love and becomes a heart of gold. The love is so deeply entrenched that Gilgamesh changes completely. He used to be tyrannical and unruly in his leadership but at a touch of love, all these changes, and this is shown when he laments deeply when Enkidu dies. The love shown to Gilgamesh by Enkidu acts to tame his wild behavior. This is an indication that love has the power to change the thoughts and acts of people for better.

Love is not always beneficial. There are times that love brings about misery, despair, and regret. In the text, erotic love has been depicted as a source of both destruction and despair. The harlot has an erotic love for Enkidu. This love brings Enkidu from the wild and it acts as a rite of passage. The erotic love that the harlot has for Enkidu is a major cause of Enkidu's downfall. Had he not met the harlot, Enkidu's life would not have the downward trajectory that it took. At the moment of his death, Enkidu is bitter with the harlot and laments for having met her. He even goes to the extent of cursing her for the misery she brought to her.

Enkidu is a character that lived in the wilderness and had a cordial relationship with the wild animals. Besides, he was comfortable there. However, it is said that Enkidu cannot join the human race without having to sleep with a woman. After sleeping with a woman, it is said that he will be rejected by the very nature that loved him a lot. After he sleeps with Shamhat, he is rejected by the animals and his life takes a new turn. In this aspect, romantic love in the form of sex is used as a corruption force. It is through this love that Enkidu loses his long kept innocence as well as his life in the wild. Enkidu regrets for having engaged in sex. Therefore, sex is used a means of destruction and regret.

Other than love, gender plays a significant role in the book. Although power was a reserve for men, women too had a significant influence on some issues. The gods in the story are male, and men hold the positions of leadership. For example, Gilgamesh, a male, was the king of Uruk. Because he had power, he could sleep with other women at will. In this aspect, women were regarded as inferior and objects for sexual use. However, although women do not hold powerful positions, they could use their influence to effect change. For example, Shamhat used her influence to change the life of Enkidu. She relied on her sexuality as a tool of power. It is written, "Six days, seven nights was Enkidu aroused, flowing into Shamhat" (Mitchell 185). After having sex with Shamhat, Enkidu's life changes completely. This is an implication that women, too, had the power to influence things. Another woman, Shiduri, the tavern keeper, is also depicted as wise. She helps Gilgamesh find his way when he gets lost in his quest to reach Uta-napishti. Despite the power position that he wields, Gilgamesh has to depend on a woman for directions. In this regard, the Gilgamesh shows that power is an attribute of both genders.

In conclusion, it is right to argue that love is both a healer and a destroyer, as depicted in the Gilgamesh. The love of friendship is depicted as one that instigates joy, positive change and harmony while romance is a major cause of separation, misery, and regret. In this sense, love of friendship supersedes that of romance. Enkidu's love for Gilgamesh changed the latter to a better ruler who could relate with the people well and address issues that affect the people. However, romance like that depicted by the harlot, Shamhat towards Enkidu, is both destructive and unworthy.

Works Cited

Mitchell, S. Gilgamesh: A new English version. London: Profile Books, 2014.

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