As in many literary works, The Epic of Gilgamesh’s hero undergoes a clear progression in his character as the story is developed. In this narrative poem, we get glimpses of who Gilgamesh is and what his purposes and goals are. We see Gilgamesh act in a variety of ways; as an overbearing ruler resented by his people, a courageous and strongfighter, a deflated, depressed man, and finally as a man who seems happy with what he's accomplished. Most importantly is that through all of these transitions and turns of fortune, we see Gilgamesh's attitude toward life change. As a result, the goals he has for his own life alter dramatically, and it is in these goals that we see Gilgamesh's transition from being a superficial, cruel ruler to beingan introspective, satisfied man.
The epic begins with the men of Uruk describing Gilgamesh as an overly aggressive ruler. “Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover,neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comedy and resolute.”(62) The citizens respect him, but they resent his sexual and physical aggression, so they plead to the gods to alleviate some of their burden. The gods resolve to create an equal for Gilgamesh to tame him and keep him in line. This equal, Enkidu, has an immediate impact onGilgamesh. When they first meet, both having never before met a man equal in stature, they fight. “so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like bulls locked together.”(69) In giving Gilgamesh a real battle, Enkidu instantly changes him; having this equal gives Gilgamesh a sense of respect for another man, something he had neverpreviously felt. Although the magnitude of the fight caused a significant mess, the bond that is created proved to be well worth the trouble.
The next time we see them, their friendship is concrete. Gilgamesh seems to be the leader at the start of their relationship and immediately plans an adventure for them. “I have not established my name stamped on bricks as my destiny decreed;therefore I will go to the country where the cedar is felled.....Because of the evil that is in the land, we will go to the forest and destroy the evil; for in the forest lives Humbaba whose name is “Hugeness”.”(71) Another side of Gilgamesh that we see at this stage is his arrogance. When Enkidu expresses reservations about this dangerous mission and asks why Gilgamesh wants to go on it, Gilgameshreplies, “Forward, there is nothing to fear! Then if I fall I leave behind me a name that endures; men will say of me, “Gilgamesh has fallen in fight with ferocious Humbaba””(71) He is not scared of Humbaba and all of his power. Gilgamesh wants to use this adventure to have fun and earn glory. In his arrogance, Gilgamesh shoes that at this point in his life he is not afraid of death. He seems toalmost welcome it as a way to gain fame and preserve his name. Here, he says “but as for us men, our days are numbered, our occupations are breath of wind.”(71) He accepts his mortality without remorse.
Gilgamesh's view of life and death changes dramatically in this story; it is perhaps the biggest transition that we see in him. After defeating Humbaba, humiliating Ishtar together,and killing the bull from heaven, Gilgamesh and Enkidu's friendship is further solidified. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh goes into a deep depression. “For Enkidu; I loved him dearly, together we endured all kinds of hardships....for the common lot of man has taken him. I have wept for him day and night….Since he went, my life is nothing.”(98) Enkidu's death is a terrible loss for Gilgamesh. Not...