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The Meaning of Life and The Epic of Gilgamesh

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Conventionally or traditionally, stories are meant to lend a deeper meaning to life through representations of different thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions, yet a few stories are not written in the traditional style, but yet tend to be apart from mainstream story telling. One such story is ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ by Arthur A. Brown who tries to establish a link of mortality between the characters and incidents in the story and his audience.

The Epic of Gilgamesh speaks of Gilgamesh, a king who ruled his people who dwelled between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. In our quest to find the real meaning of life people tread different pathways just to find some answers; one such pathway is reading and learning new things, especially those of ancient times. One such brilliant work that caters to this is the story of Gilgamesh that was written almost 4000 years ago, which highlights certain salient points about the meaning of life.

Story telling or reading a story in the traditional sense could be described as an awakening of the senses through the use of language, characters, incidents, experiences and the context in which each appears, but Arthur Brown has gone a step further in his representation of ‘The story of Gilgamesh’ to portray or depict that which is not seen. One such important aspect is his depiction of the meaning of life. He was successful in doing so because of his skill in entwining the lives of his characters with the lives of his readers. His audience is able to identify with the different characters in the epic because in some way they feel closely connected to it. It compels the reader to compare and contrast their own lives with the lives of the characters in the story and in this way they are able to identify with it and find answers to the meaning of their own lives.

Arthur A. Brown handles the epic of Gilgamesh so deftly flitting between reality and imagination and he does his best to kindle the minds of his readers to search and find for the answers of the meaning of life. Through his skillful narration, he brings out the beauty, valor, dynamism and reckless abandon of the hero Gilgamesh whom he epitomizes as both God and king. As both God and king, Gilgamesh is not compassionate towards his people because he commits crimes like killing and raping. To counter his actions the Gods send Enkidu as his match. Enkidu prevents Gilgamesh from committing such acts by confronting and fighting with him all through their adventures. But after each episode they reconcile and become friends once again.

Arthur A. Brown skillfully flits between the spiritual and the mortal as he brings out the anguish of Gilgamesh when he perceives death and also has to die himself. It is his reconciliation and acceptance of death that lends true and deep meaning to all the adventures he goes through and which is what makes this story so compelling and touching. Though in the end immortality evades him and he dies, yet, he remains a living legend in the hearts of all those who read this wonderful epic. In reading the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ we celebrate all that is human in us and it goes a step further in giving us a new outlook in life while dealing with other humans that cross our lives.

Reference

Storytelling, the Meaning of life and ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’
www.eawc.evansville.edu/essays/brown.htm

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