Prof. Karyn KiserENGL 2310 World Literature Studies V6 Sp21725 March 2017The Theme of Being Civilized versus Uncivilized: The Epic of Gilgamesh and The TempestWithin literary theory of postcolonial analysis there is dichotomy of civilized versus uncivilized, the symbolism of characters is defined by their actions. When reading, this theme cannot be made clear at face value. The actions of characters show the author’s view of civilized set against being uncivilized.
The theme of being civilized or not, is worthy of investigating in literature because cultural rules have changed. Creating “civilization” has greatly affected those rules. Experiencing literature about cultures becoming civilized at different time periods makes it easy for a reader to follow a paper trail pertaining to such changes. Literature that has been written and passed down during these times forms our daily lives.
What has been written is present in our laws, religion, news, and perhaps our own family history. Literature, teamed with history, has told us that even though creating a “civilization” has proffered advances to those at the receiving end, becoming civilized has realistically enslaved and/or wiped out the uncivilized. This is as if to imply that existing as uncivilized is wrong or immoral.
In literature, the spectrum of being civilized to uncivilized can persuade the reader to have a biased view of a character. This is evident when terms like “savage” and “barbaric” are used to describe characters implying that the civilized character is the champion thereby “saving” the “other”. When applying postcolonial analysis to a lens of civilized versus uncivilized, it is important to remain objective to labels and see each connotation as an instrument of depth to each character or group that is being labeled.
A reading should be a lesson in assessment and not prejudice. Otherwise, this provides an undue image of the “savages” as unworthy as well as permits ideas of inequality ? supporting dominance and control. A reader should understand how and why each character feels and acts the way they do based on the lens of being civilized. In the texts analyzed, The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Tempest, the characters put aside the guise of being civilized defeat savagery with savagery.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu is introduced as a lovable savage. He is a friend to animals and nature. This initial depiction of Enkidu is a hairy creature that is perfectly content with being an enemy of civilization. After he is tamed by a well-intended prostitute, he is fully transformed into human and defeats a wild bull in the city, going against his true nature as a friend to animals. This garners a friendship with King Gilgamesh. Enkidu follows his friend into a fatal encounter with a true savage beast.
The animal nature that was once a sense of normalcy to Enkidu is now reinstated. His fear heeds warnings that were intuitive having come from the animal world. It is here that the cost of becoming human is ultimately a tragic sacrifice of himself. The reader will understand that the journey to a civilized self leads him directly back into savagery when going into the territory of a monster to bring back civilization.Gilgamesh’s birthright is opulence and knows nothing of living as a savage would.
It should be understood that he is in desperate need of an adversary to take him down a notch because of his genuine callous nature. The initial judgement that Gilgamesh was the true savage is reasonable because he was known for being a brute and a bully. This character will yield to civilization during his period of knowing and losing Enkidu, a savage. As their friendship thrives, Gilgamesh gradually becomes open to love and acceptance of his friend. This is a sharp contrast to his initial nature. During his search for eternal life, Gilgamesh lands right in the thick of being a savage himself. The text “And dressed again in the dark pelts he had come so far in” clearly shows how he is no longer a slave to luxury or comfort.
(Page 65) His transformation has now made him a representative of the uncivilized world. On his journey from exemplary bad-boy, to scared straight, to cautious wall inspector, the character of Gilgamesh required the guidance of his savage friend to defeat his own savagery.