The Role Of Women In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

835 words - 4 pages

The story starts off with Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk, who is one third man and two thirds god. This story is about a man's quest for immortality in addition to the importance of boundaries between the realms of animal, man and gods. Women symbolize the importance of locative boundaries in the text. These boundaries are set by the harlot Shamhat, Ishtar, Siduri, the tavern keeper, Ninsun and Utanapishtim's wife. By giving women this role of wisdom and boundary enforcement, The Epic of Gilgamesh reflects how Mesopotamian society actually valued women.
The harlot, Shamhat, serves to establish the boundary between animals and humans. Enkidu, a creature on the border between animal and man is ...view middle of the document...

This tragedy influences Gilgamesh to search for immortality.
Then, Gilgamesh meets Siduri, the tavern keeper, in his search for immortality. Knowing that Gilgamesh will never be able to cross the boundary between man and god, Siduri gives Gilgamesh directions to Urshanabi, a boatman but not without some advice first. "You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. Siduri told him “fill your belly with good things, dance and be merry for this too is the lot of man" (102). Here, man's lot in life is shown as rather meaningless and a woman has been left to teach Gilgamesh this. Both women remind Gilgamesh of his place, in that Ishtar keeps Gilgamesh in check with Enkidu's death and Siduri proves wise with knowledge of Gilgamesh's fate.
Furthermore, the boundary between men and the gods is separated by a thin line of mortality. Utanapishtim’s wife shows that Gilgamesh cannot cross that line. Also, Ninsun's wisdom keeps Gilgamesh in check and shows women's power of knowledge. When Gilgamesh dreams of meteors and axes, the goddess Ninsun, Gilgamesh's mother knows exactly what is going on. Here, Ninsun gives Gilgamesh the exact thing that will keep him in his place. Only a woman could do that. When Gilgamesh asks Utanapishtim how to get immortality he responds, "You only...

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