The Successful Hero On A Path To
Failure Essay, Research Paper
The Successful Hero on a Path to Failure
What is a hero? Is a hero is a great individual with powers or qualities that
separate him from the rest of the society or world for that matter. In a sense, perhaps, I
think a hero can be much more than just having these particular qualities. In my opinion, a
hero is someone that also commands great respect. There must also have been a great
event or deed for someone to be deemed a hero.
In the heroic tale of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh himself is a hero. He has the qualities
required for being a hero, but he is lacking. He fails to exhibit self restraint and wise
decision making. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a hero must be perfect in order to be
one. A hero is supposed to make mistakes and have downfalls. Heroism is a quality that
is present in every human being. It is a part of humanity. It is displayed more
prominently in a few such as Gilgamesh. A hero still remains human though and can never
Society in Gilgamesh’s culture viewed their king as the ultimate warrior and
leader. The city was the most important part of life in the times of Gilgamesh. A ziggurat
was present in the city representing religious life. The gods resided in the temples of the
city. Society relied upon the presence of gods to determine how well the city would last
and prosper. The city was a place of patriotism and nationalism. Elaborate rituals were
commonplace. Unlike that of the culture described in the Bible, sexuality is part of the
worship of gods. Gilgamesh is a key factor in this way of life for the city of Uruk. He is
the priest king. His role in the city is important because he is depended upon by all of the
residents of his city. They look to him for strength, spirit, and guidance. Gilgamesh is
ideal to the people because he serves the purposes a priest king is expected to do in order
to keep society thriving. He wins wars and has little fear. It is similar to politics. If the
economy is thriving, then the people say the president is doing a good job. If the country
is in a state of depression, the president will most likely not win the reelection. The people
of this city didn’t care much that he had ill qualities. It was more important to see the
ones that kept the city moving and expanding.
From the point of view of certain gods, however, Gilgamesh made too many
mistakes. Gilgamesh himself was part god, but he still was part human and nothing could
change that about Gilgamesh. The story of Gilgamesh is an epic tale that revolves around
the life of a hero. This is the first issue. Gilgamesh doesn’t think of himself as a mortal
man. He begins to question death in Tablet IX after the death of his companion Enkidu.
Gilgamesh wandered in the wilderness grieving over the death of Enkidu and
weeping saying: “Enkidu has died. Must I die too? Must Gilgamesh be like that?”
Gilgamesh felt the fear of it in his belly. He said to himself that he would seek the
son of Ubartutu, Utnapishtim, he, the only one of men by means of whom he might
find out how death could be avoided. He said to himself that he would hasten to
him, the dangers of the journey notwithstanding.
He is forced to face his own mortality. It seems in the passage that Gilgamesh never even
considered death before this instance. He assumed that death only can to other people.
Gilgamesh is in a state of denial at first, by the death of Enkidu and second, by the
realization that his death may also soon come.
Gilgamesh isn’t a hero at the beginning of this tale. Gilgamesh develops into a
hero. He has great qualities that are uncommon in ordinary men. He is a skilled fighter,
passionate, bold, aggressive, and has incredible strength. What he lacks in may be the
greatest qualities that a hero can possess. Gilgamesh is unwise in decisions and has a ill
conception of justice. Gilgamesh is tightly linked with the gods, perhaps the only reason
that Gilgamesh is so successful in his ability. Ishtar makes it difficult for him when he
refuses to have relations with her. Shamash, the sun god, uses Gilgamesh to carry out
deeds that may be forbidden by the other gods. The other gods are extremely upset with
Gilgamesh and Enkidu when Huwawa is killed. As a result, Enkidu is killed. This is the
turning point for Gilgamesh in a sense. His reaction is unusual for Gilgamesh because he
isn’t a thinker. He is a fighter. Now, his only objective is to discover immortality. He
becomes obsessed with life, fearing death.
When Gilgamesh seeks out Utnapishtim, he is seeking only the way to be
immortal. He cares nothing of the hero that he once was. Gilgamesh mourns for the loss
of Enkidu. His perspective changes. He truly discovers that he is mortal after he loses the
plant to the serpent. All his strength and skill could not have gained immortality even if he
hadn’t lost the plant to the serpent. Gilgamesh’s discovery, that he can’t stop death from
coming, made him the true hero. Gilgamesh is devastated by the loss of immortality, but in
his journey back to Uruk with the boatman, he understands that knowledge is what makes
the man. He says at last:
“Study the brickwork, study the fortification; climb the great ancient staircase to
the terrace; study how it is made; from the terrace see the planted and the fallow
fields, the ponds and orchards. One league is the inner city, another league is
orchards; still another the fields beyond; over there is the precinct of the temple.
Three leagues and the temple precinct of Ishtar measure Uruk, the city of
At that, Gilgamesh realizes that he knows so much, and he has the greatest city in the
world. He asks himself why he is searching for more when he has the greatest thing that
Education is for life, and, to Gilgamesh, the world looks different based on what
he knows. Before his journey, Gilgamesh was unchanging in thought. His character
evolves into a wise and great king.
Genesis tells an antiheroic story. Adam and Eve never fit the description of being
the hero. The only quality that might substantiate them as a hero is that they are
personally connected with God. This does not make them heroes in anyway. The same
holds true for Abraham. Abraham is but simply a messenger of God. He became the first
leader. However, he was not the leader in the same respect as Gilgamesh was a great
leader. Abraham led the people into worship of the Lord. Abraham was never
worshipped for doing so for the people because was merely a messenger of God’s word.
We can say Genesis is an antihero story for reasons that no heroes exist. The Lord
is an almighty power that is to be reckoned with. Genesis would be ineffective with
heroes. The whole point of Genesis is to establish that no one is greater than God. Men
may have extraordinary qualities for a short time, but God will never falter or fail. He
never loses faith and has all the answers. The people who have faith in God and trust that
humans are all equal can always follow the Lord with absolute security.
The hero Gilgamesh can not possibly expect his people to follow him blindly.
Gilgamesh is a hero that the people fear and dislike. They look up to him as something to
strive for, but never expect to accomplish it themselves. Gilgamesh is revered for his great
power that he has as a leader. At the same time, Gilgamesh is feared for his ruthlessness
and enjoyment of war.
God can never have the quality that Gilgamesh possesses. The people don’t look
at God as a role model. It is completely out of reach and nor would anyone wish to be
God. The know that they are too flawed to ever compare to God. Many of the people
chosen by God to act as a prophet, messenger, or king do not feel worthy of doing this
much. In Gilgamesh, the gods are not nearly so respected as the monotheistic God.
These gods are corrupt and selfish. They are based on sex and deceit. God is never
dishonest or evil. He creates test situations for people that may become entrapped within,
but God never forces them into their decisions. He punishes them for the wrong
decisions. In Gilgamesh, Ishtar punishes the entire city for the correct moral decision of
the king not to sleep with her. God never punishes for the right decision in Genesis. He
punishes for the wrong ones severely. Adam and Eve were punished when they failed to
obey God’s only rule of avoiding the Tree of Knowledge. Had Adam and Eve never
touched the forbidden fruit, punishment would have never seen their path and they would
still be living peacefully in Eden. The world was punished for their corruption, but the
good were spared like Noah. In Gilgamesh, innocent and evil were all punished alike.
Justice was unimportant. It seemed trivial.
In the end, a hero is someone who is admired but is abound for flaw or failure.
The aspect of humanity is inescapable even to the most heroic hero. Gilgamesh will never
be perfect. The gods of Gilgamesh can’t even be perfect, and they lack in the flaws of
humanity. Their flaw is the lack of communication and respect for each other’s powers.
Genesis has no heroes because its purpose is to establish that humanity is not
perfect and can never be expected to be. No matter what kind of connection between the
superior power and people, a single man is just the same as everyone else. There is a
point that God makes in Genesis, 6:5-8 when even God Himself is perturbed by man’s
The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that
every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face
of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for
I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of
Now, God spared Noah and his family because they were good. This doesn’t
make Noah the hero either. Noah is not punished because he believed in God and did not
corrupt himself with evil ways. God has the power and people respect it. Noah is that
Gilgamesh is a hero that will never succeed because it is impossible. The gods
would never allow his success and he makes mistakes that can never be overcome.
Heroes are admired, but will never accomplish the ultimate goal of perfection or