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The Epic of Gilgamesh Honors World Literature


Directions: Answer all questions below on a separate sheet of paper. If you can, please type your responses (single-spaced) and bring them to class with you. Leave space between each of your responses to take additional notes in class.

During our reading of the epic, you are responsible for learning all the names and places mentioned (quiz). Be sure to familiarize yourself with the list that begins on page 95.

  1. Analyze the prologue on page 11. What ideas are introduced? Have you read anything else that has to do with similar ideas?

Part I

  1. How is Gilgamesh characterized in the opening pages? In other words, what impression does the reader have of Gilgamesh?

  2. Review pages 14 through 17. How is Enkidu characterized here? What impression does the reader have of Enkidu?

  3. Consider Gilgamesh’s dreams (19-20). What do they mean? What role do dreams seem to play in Gilgamesh’s life (and/or Sumerian culture)?

  4. How does Enkidu begin to change? What might his change symbolize?

  5. Explain the conflict between Enkidu and Gilgamesh (begin analysis on page 22). What is at the root of their conflict with one another?

  6. Why do Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends?

Part II

  1. According to Enkidu, why is it a bad idea to try to kill Humbaba? Cite specific reasons he uses in his argument to Gilgamesh.

  2. Why is Gilgamesh so determined to kill Humbaba? What is his motivation? Explain.

  3. Examine the conversation between Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the elders of Uruk (30-1). What does this encounter tell you about Gilgamesh’s character? Enkidu? the elders?

  4. Describe Ninsun’s character. What does she think of her son?

  5. Why are Ninsun’s parting words to Enkidu significant?

  6. Consider Gilgamesh’s and Enkidu’s emotions are they approach the gate to Humbaba’s forest. What do their reactions reveal about their characters?

  7. Describe the dreams that Gilgamesh has. What role does Enkidu play?

  8. What are Gilgamesh’s and Enkidu’s roles in Humbaba’s death?

  9. How does Ishtar try to convince Gilgamesh to marry her? How does Gilgamesh respond and why? (42-43)

  10. What is Ishtar’s plan for revenge? (44-45)

  11. What does Anu’s response to his daughter tell us about the gods and their relationship to man? (44-45)

  12. How does Enkidu “add insult to injury” when he kills the Bull of Heaven? (45)

  13. What do you think of the gods’ decision to punish Enkidu? Was it a just punishment? Why or why not?

  14. How does Mason, the translator, describe Enkidu’s death? What do you think Mason wants the reader to feel after reading about Enkidu’s death? Why? (46-50)

Part III
  1. Read the long passage that starts “All that is left to one who grieves” (53) and ends with “The memory of death” (54). How does Mason describe grief? Is his description effective? Why or why not? Cite specific lines to support your answers.

  2. How does Gilgamesh cope with Enkidu’s death? (54-55)

  3. Whom does Gilgamesh encounter at the mountains of Mashu? What do they tell him? (56-58)

  4. What is the purpose of the description of Gilgamesh’s grief on pages 59-61? In other words, what effect do the pages have on the reader?

  5. How are light and darkness portrayed? (59-61)

  6. How does Siduri discourage Gilgamesh from pursuing Utnapishtim? Why? What does she say he should do instead? Be specific in your response. (62-66)

  7. Explain Gilgamesh’s behavior: “Coming upon some stones that stood in his way / He smashed them into a thousand pieces” (66). How does this action come back to haunt him? (69)

  8. What must Gilgamesh do so that he can cross the sea of death safely? Why?

  9. Gilgamesh must overcome several obstacles before he reaches Utnapishtim. What are they? Why do you think this is important? In other words, why are such obstacles necessary for Gilgamesh’s journey?

  10. What did Utnapishtim learn many years ago after experiencing loss? Explain. (72-75)

  11. How does the narrative point-of-view change beginning on page 76?

  12. How are the gods characterized? What impression do you get of their thoughts and actions? (76-78)

  13. What is Utnapishtim’s reaction when he discovers that he nd his family are the only survivors? (78-79)

  14. Why do you think Utnapishtim is granted eternal life? (79)
  15. Explain Utnapishtim’s anger with Gilgamesh (81) and why it softens (82-83).

  16. How does Gilgamesh almost succeed in his quest? (84-85)

  17. Consider the animal that steals Gilgamesh’s “gift.” What idea/quality does this animal often symbolize in other stories with which you are familiar? Explain.

  18. What natural phenomena is explained in this section of the story?

Part IV

  1. Why is Gilgamesh’s encounter with the blind man significant? (91)

  2. Consider the last passage of the epic. What has Gilgamesh learned from his experience?


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