Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay Question



1. Analyze the relationship between God and creation as it is depicted in the creation story (Genesis 1 & 2). You may focus on all of creation or on any part of creation--humans, animals, the universe, etc.--or write generally of the whole of creation. This essay should characterize the relationship and show evidence from within the text to support your analysis.
 
2. Examine the transgression of Adam and Eve--the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil--and the penalty they pay for their sin. What makes their sin so awful that they could die for committing it? What makes the sin so attractive that they are willing to die to commit it? What are Adam and Eve's reasons for eating the fruit? What motivates them to sin (not necessarily the same thing as their reasons for eating)? What role does free will play in their action? Is it a factor? How do you know? What are the consequences of their action? How could Adam and Eve sin if all of creation is "good"? Does their ability to sin mean that God created something evil? Why must God expel them from the garden after their sin? What does eating the fruit represent for the original readers of the text? What message about the proper relationship between God and humans does the creation myth carry to its readers? What else might the myth explain?
 
3. Write God's journal covering any part of creation from the sixth day through the expulsion of humans from the garden. Reveal God's joys, successes, and/or failures in "God's own words" as you imagine them. Remember that you, "God," are writing this journal for "your" own reading, not for anyone else. Be honest about "your" feelings and frustrations. Please write in complete sentences that depict your inner thoughts and emotions. Remember, like everything else about God, "your" English grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. are perfect. :-)
 
4. Compare and contrast the Flood Story from Genesis with the flood story in Gilgamesh. What are the most important differences from what do those differences arise? What are the key similarities? What causes the two floods? How do you explain the similarities between a Hebrew scriptural text and an ancient Mesopotamian epic? Compare and contrast the characters of Noah and Utnapishtim. Do these figures serve the same purpose within the context of their stories?
 
5. In both the biblical creation story and Gilgamesh, nature and those who live with it (Adam, Eve, and Enkidu) seem to have a special, idyllic relationship until something happens to disrupt the natural order of things. Describe, by using examples from the texts, the original relationships established in each story between nature and Adam, Eve, and Enkidu. What happens to disrupt these relationships? Are the events that disrupt the relationships similar in any way? What is the role of knowledge in each instance? What results when the relationship in each instance is disrupted? In what ways are the humans of the creation story and Enkidu of Gilgamesh similar? In what ways do they differ? Do these similarities or differences have any bearing on what results after their relationships with nature are disrupted? From whose perspective might the results be viewed as positive? As negative?
 
6. What is the relationship between the gods and the characters and events in Gilgamesh? Choose some key figures and/or events to illustrate you analysis. What roles do the gods play in events in this epic? Is the relationship between the gods and Gilgamesh, the hero, the same as the relationship between God and his creation in Genesis?
 
7. Gilgamesh is classified as an "epic." What makes Gilgamesh an epic? Use examples from the text and your knowledge of the definition of an epic to support your argument.
 
8. Looking at the cycle of events from the beginning to the end of Gilgamesh and the beginning to the end of Genesis, can you identify any patterns that might reveal a larger, mythical importance for either text? What patterns do you see? What significance might these have for original readers or listeners?
 
9. In the Iliad we see a portrayal of the Greek heroic code in action. Compare the notion of "hero" in the Iliad to the idea as you see it in Gilgamesh. Even within each text we see heroism depicted in different ways, some favorable comments on heroic endeavor, some not so favorable. You will need to define heroism in both works and then show examples of the concepts in the two works. What are heroes expected to be or to do? How and why should heroes face death? What does death mean to the heroes? Is one of the heroes in the Iliad (choose one to examine in depth) more like one of the heroes in Gilgamesh? Is there a change in the concept of "hero" from the time it is depicted in Gilgamesh, ca. 2000 BCE, to the time it is depicted in the Iliad, ca. 8th c. BCE? If so, how do you know? Compare and contrast two heroes in the Iliad and assess how well they meet the standard for true heroism that Homer seems to support. Remember to outline the standard for heroism as you see it portrayed. Who is the "hero" of the Iliad? What makes this man more heroic than others in the poem?
 
10.Write your own heroic epic that deals with the life and deeds of a modern hero for the American nation (this person could be an average person with extraordinary talent or bravery--heroes today do not need to be god-like, but their actions must be significant to our cultural mythology). Remember that epics deal with national heroes whose actions have significance to whole cultures rather than just to the individual heroes and that epics have sweeping scope either of action, locale, or time. To write this epic, you may use 3 pages in order to encompass more of this sweeping breadth. Use the Homeric oral style to recount your legendary hero's exploits--start with an epic invocation, employ epic similes to characterize his/her actions or traits, and repeat epithets to identify characters or things.
 
11. The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Gilgamesh all have epic openings. Choose any two of these openings and compare and contrast them. Do they use an epic invocation? If so, who is invoked and what are they invoked to do? How do the poems introduce events the events that will follow? Do they provide great detail or simply a summary framework? Does the opening make you feel that you are entering a flashback as you read the rest of the poem? Do these openings give you a sense of the major themes evident in the poems? Use details from the poems to support your answers.
 
12. If you had to teach the Iliad or the Odyssey to high school students, how would you do it? Write a two-page explanation of ways in which you would engage your students in the poem you selected. Would you emphasize culture, history, themes, epic form, characterization, or something else? If you emphasized themes, what would they be, and why? How would you teach the characters in the poem? Which characters would you focus on, and why? What kind of teaching aids would you employ to help the students relate better to the Homeric events that are so far removed from their personal experience?
 
13. Explore the many facets of female characters in the Iliad and/or the Odyssey to determine the role(s) played by females in Homeric epic. You may focus on human characters, semi-human figures, goddesses, or a combination of these from one or both epics,but you must come to some clear conclusions about their roles in world of the epic(s) you chose. What kind of power do females have? How are they defined in relation to the male characters in the poem(s)? Do their actions influence the males' actions or reactions in any way? If so where does that influence lie? What are the sources of their power? What weaknesses are females depicted as having? Are females essential to the action or plot of the epic(s) you chose? Do the powers and influences of human females differ from those of semi-human females or goddess figures in significant ways? If so how? Use specifics from the epic(s) to support your argument.
 
14. The Iliad and the Odyssey call our attention to a number of themes that are significant to heroic culture and the notion of being a great man. Focusing on one of the following themes in either of the Homeric epics, show its importance in the plot, action, organization, and/or overall theme of the epic by selecting supporting evidence from the poem you chose: poetic fame (reputation), folly, excessive pride (hubris), wise counsel, homecoming, temptation, or responsibility for one's actions.
 
15. Analyze the relationship between gods and humans as it is depicted in either the Iliad or the Odyssey, or if you see differences between the two epics, compare the divine/human relationships depicted. Who is in control of human action? Are the gods depicted as significantly different from the humans in any way? Are the divine and the mortal characters similar in any way? What role do the gods play in determining the action of the epic you chose? Are they responsible for the way events transpire? Do the humans think the gods are in control, and how do we know? Do the humans accept responsibility for their actions, and how do we know? Can the individual gods do as they please, or is there some limit on what individual gods can do? What limits, if any, are there on the gods' power? What limits, if any, are there on the humans' power? This essay should characterize the relationship and show evidence from within the text to support your analysis.

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Things to Consider while reading.

We will see this emphasis in Book Seven of The Rebublic: Plato uses an allegory of the cave to underscore the duty of philosopher-kings to guide and govern those who remain in the dark. In truth, perhaps we can share a common hope: to be at peace with the world, to come to terms with the failings of love and the ramifications of hate, to shed the strategies of division that systematically teach us to think narrowly. I believe that The Epic of Gilgamesh includes a bewildering story of a hero's capacity to do good, to be a living creature with dignity--regardless of the agony of life. In this, a great many of the mythic voices are consistent even in the matter of details.

Begin with the assumption that storytelling is vital to human health. In Western World Literature, our relationship to the world at large has been, in part, the story of ethics and humanity, the actualization of equality and peace through narrative art. The central theme of Gilgamesh begins with a simple question: Gilgamesh is portrayed in the prologue as an oppressor or tyrant. What happens to this view of him as the story progresses?

Other themes are worthy of in-depth discussion. Heroes are people who know secret things. Plato's allegory of the cave again characterizes the place of the hero within the world. Are heroes ever to be pitied?

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