Study Guide

The Epic of Gilgamesh Perseverance

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If at first you don't succeed, try … journeying to the edge of the world and asking some immortal graybeard for the answer. Or, so says The Epic of Gilgamesh. Really, though, we do have to hand it to Gilgamesh—he doesn't take no for an answer. Maybe he is a spoiled brat, but you have to admit that he generally gets his way—and it isn't because he's killing anybody with kindness. We think the clearest example of this is when a very annoyed Utanapishtim sends Gilgamesh home with the ferryman Urshanabi. The two of them can't be but 10 minutes from shore when Gilgamesh turns the boat around to go back to Utanapishtim for, what we can only guess is, one more question or one more chance at immortality. Geez, Gilgamesh, take a hint!

Questions About Perseverance

  1. What literary devices does the poem use to show Gilgamesh's perseverance on his final quest?
  2. Which shows more perseverance: never being discouraged, or being discouraged and going ahead anyway? Which of the two descriptions applies best to Gilgamesh? 
  3. Does Gilgamesh's journey in search of immortality show perseverance in his attempts to change his fate? Or, does it just demonstrate his cowardly fear of death or his prideful assumption that he is somehow different from other humans?
  4. Which character in the epic has the most perseverance? Do any characters show a lack of perseverance? Do their fates in any way seem to depend upon their level of perseverance?

Chew on This

The main theme of Gilgamesh is the importance of perseverance, whether or not you achieve your goal.

In the epic, perseverance can be a negative trait as well as a positive one. Even though Gilgamesh's perseverance in going to see Utanapishtim is good, Enkidu's perseverance in insisting that Gilgamesh kill Humbaba has disastrous consequences.

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