1.  What does The Epic of Gilgamesh have to say abut the nature of good and evil?  In what parts does it explore the battle between good and evil?  Which force triumphs?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Through his narrative, I think that The Epic of Gilgamesh speaks clearly about how good can conquer evil.  Gilgamesh's birth leaves the reader to understand the nature of redemption as a part of the human experience.  Gilgamesh is "Two thirds they made him god and one third man."  Accordingly, he is not entirely good or entirely evil.  There are moments when his own self- indulgence and his hubris, or excessive pride, are not representative of that which is good.  Gilgamesh must learn painful lessons about the nature of being in the world.  

The epic speaks to how the struggle for meaning is not an easy one.  It is one besieged with challenges. As Gilgamesh embraces both his baser instincts and his elevated notions of the good throughout his narrative, the epic speaks to how good and evil is a constant dynamic within the human condition.  Answers are not distinct and easily derived.  Just as Gilgamesh struggles, so do all human beings.  The narrative does not feature any specific parts where this is evident, as much as it illuminates the dynamic as a part of Gilgamesh's evolution as a character.  Like the insect, Gilgamesh "sheds her larva and sees the sun in his glory" as a part of the emergence into restoration, a condition where good wins out over evil.  The "shedding of skin" is a condition that Gilgamesh experiences, but is also one that all human beings must undergo in order for good to triumph over evil.  Gilgamesh sheds his hubris and self- indulgence in order to see something larger.  When Gilgamesh understands the lack of permanence that is around him, it is clear that he sheds this "skin" which prevents him from understanding the true nature of reality.  

In the final analysis, it is clear that good triumphs.  Gilgamesh recognizes that his true calling in consciousness is to act in the name of something larger than himself.  Gilgamesh understands that the battle between good and evil is one that can be resolved when individuals are able to see that keeping an eye on the maintenance of the social order should supersede his own personal interests:

And so they traveled until they reached Uruk.
There Gilgamesh the king said to the boatman:

“Study the brickwork, study the fortification;
climb the ancient staircase to the terrace;

study how it is made; from the terrace see
the planted and fallow fields, the ponds and orchards.

One league is the inner city, another league 
is orchards; still another the fields beyond;

over there is the precinct of the temple. . . . ,
Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar.”

Measure Uruk, the city of Gilgamesh 

It is clear that Gilgamesh recognizes the need to be identified with "his city." He grasps that this collective identification is far superior than the temporal pursuits of self indulgence.  It is here where good triumphs over evil, and where Gilgamesh's evolution becomes descriptive of what it means to be human.

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