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The Epic of Gilgamesh

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Can the problems that Gilgamesh faces in The Epic of Gilgamesh be compared to the problems that persist in our modern society today?

Yes, the problems that Gilgamesh faces can be compared to problems that persist in modern society, since they relate to universal themes such as love, death, jealousy, and loss.

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One of the things that makes literature great is perpetual relevance, and The Epic of Gilgamesh deals with themes that will always matter to readers. The most striking problem Gilgamesh has to face, which is described in detail on tablet 8, is the death of Enkidu. The death of loved one is a common theme in literature, but few poems describe grief and mourning in such heart-rending terms as The Epic of Gilgamesh. Even after he has done everything possible to honor his friend, Gilgamesh remains inconsolable, and the only thing he can do is to undertake a new quest, though this still does not cure his grief.

The death of Enkidu creates in Gilgamesh an emotion that is arguably more prominent in modern literature and culture than grief: the fear of annihilation. Gilgamesh becomes fixated on and terrified of his own death and desperate to do whatever he can to avoid it. The adventures described on tablet 11 bring him tantalizingly close to eternal life, but this finally eludes him, and he is forced, like everyone else, to accept the universality of death.

Gilgamesh is not always a likeable or admirable hero, but he is a supremely human one. His adventures often seem more modern than those of Odysseus or Aeneas. He has to deal with the wrath of a jealous woman (or goddess) when Ishtar decides that she wants him as a lover and is not inclined to take rejection well, sending the Bull of Heaven to destroy him. The scale of Gilgamesh's adventures is exceptionally large, but the problems he faces come from universal experiences such as love, jealousy, grief, and the fear of death, meaning that they remain relevant in every age.

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