Gilgamesh: Man's First Story

by Bernarda Bryson

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 381

1. How does the story line of Gilgamesh compare with those of later heroic tales such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid? Can at least some of the roots of the classical myths be detected in this epic?

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2. Bryson calls Gilgamesh "man's first story." Which of the standard elements of fiction (theme, plot, and characterization) appear most strongly in this text? Can they be evaluated usefully? For example, is the plot clear? Is the characterization realistic? Does the setting seem genuine?

3. Compare the myths and stories found in Gilgamesh with stories in the Bible. How similar is the tale of Utnapishtim to that of Noah and the Flood? Both Enkidu and Adam were formed from clay by a deity. Are there other similarities between the two texts?

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4. Many readers have pointed out that the fears, hopes, and attitudes seen in Gilgamesh are still present in the world today. Is this true? If so, which appear to be the most prevalent?

5. Tragedy is usually defined as the fall of a great hero who endures his fate courageously and nobly. Is this true of Gilgamesh? Can he be compared with Hamlet or Oedipus? In what ways?

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Latest answer posted May 18, 2011, 1:20 am (UTC)

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6. The story has been pieced together from many different fragments and tablets, and the episodes may not be in the original order. Do the incidents in this text seem to be in the most logical order? How could they be rearranged?

7. Research the archeological background of the Sumerian people. How have archeological excavations helped broaden our understanding of the people, places, and events found in Gilgamesh?

8. One theory about myths is that they help the people in a given community to come to terms with their world more easily. Can any of the lessons in Gilgamesh still be studied with an eye to improving a person's way of dealing with life?

9. A symbol can be defined as any article, force, or even being that stands for some abstract element or agency. What symbols can be seen in Gilgamesh? Which seem most effective in conveying its message?

10. In Gilgamesh, Vergil's Aeneid, and Dante's Inferno, heroes descend into the Underworld. How do these three visions of the world of the dead compare or contrast with one another? What motivates these humans to undertake their dangerous and harrowing descents?

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