My definition of a great work of literature is one with characters who you understand why they are they way they are, and why they do the things that they do, whether you agree with them or not, I think it is very important to understand their motives throughout the text. I also feel that it should have enough context to describe to you why the character does what he or she does throughout the reading. I feel that “The Epic of Gilgamesh” portrays all of these things, and this translation in particular helps you truly get into Gilgamesh’s head for instance, and really see what drives him to do the things that he does.
This story contains several important themes that people need to be aware of. One example is the matter of life and death. People today will fall ill and still attempt to survive, usually taking drastic measures. People will borrow large sums of money, seek charity, and take any risks necessary to survive the ailments that they are suffering through. Gilgamesh was not ready to accept Enkidu’s death and tried to find a way to avenge it in a sense. Gilgamesh in the end isn’t able to succeed in obtaining the plant that will grant him infinite life and is distraught but in a way comes to accept his fate. The fact that this book was written around twenty one hundred BC, before any of the miracles of modern medicine, and Gilgamesh still attempts to cheat death is profound.
Another theme of this Epic is the true meaning of love and how motivating of a force it can be. When Enkidu died Gilgamesh embarks on an epic quest to find a cure for death. It’s crazy some of the things people will do for the ones they love and what Gilgamesh does for Enkidu is no exception. People go above and beyond for the ones they love on a regular basis, sometimes the gesture isn’t as huge as taking a quest seeking a plant that may or may not even exist. The fact that people displayed such compassion to one another in this epic can only lead the reader to assume people cared for one another in a time so far back just like they do now.
So all and all I feel that The Epic of Gilgamesh should without a doubt be considered a great work of literature. The fact alone that this Epic truly stood the test of time and is still being revisited by modern day society speaks volumes. Benjamin Foster in particular painted a vivid picture in my mind of the characters and the places they visit and it was a very interesting read for me. The characters have very important lessons to teach about love and sacrifice and it was a very simulating read.