Relationship Versus Alienation Relationship Relationship Versus Alienation Essay, Research Paper Relationship versus Alienation In the Stories of Achilles, Gilgamesh, and Job As opposites, relationship and alienation reveal much about character. In Homer? s The Iliad, Achilles? tragic flaw, anger, and his petty pursuit of honor cause his alienation from society. His reconnection comes only after his friend Patroclus dies and he sees that the he has focused his life on trivial rewards rather than love. Herbert Mason? s title character, Gilgamesh, is also distracted from his friendship, and his friend, Enkidu, must die before he appreciates the importance of the relationship. It takes an unmediated conversation with God for the Bible figure, Job, to realize that his alienation is self-inflicted because he doubts God. After this recognition, he is able to regain his identity as a religious shepherd.
Achilles, Gilgamesh, and Job feel alienation from their individual -1- beliefs, their relationships with others, or their relationship with their god or gods, but they also eventually work back toward regaining connection and rebuilding identity. By definition, a story? s tragic hero must have a tragic flaw. In The Iliad, the tragic hero Achilles displays excessive anger. Even though his anger motivates him as a great warrior, it is, conversely, his tragic flaw. Also known in Greek as thumos (1), or intense spirited ness, this anger is the factor that separates Achilles from the rest of his society in a number of ways. His rage, or m? nis (2), against Agamemnon and Hector causes his desertion the war effort, the death of his friend, Patroclus, and his own eventual death.
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In Book I, Achilles is motivated by a need for the character trait that classified him as a hero… glory. His thumos causes Achilles to disconnect himself from society. He is focused so much on the acquisition of glory and a divine reward for a glorious life, not to mention Bris eus as his prize, that he cannot bring himself to battle. Later, in Book XVI of The Iliad, Achilles anger is his weakness, and the cause of Patroclus? death. Achilles sends Patroclus with the Myrmidons and lends him his own armor, telling him to repel the Trojans from the ships, but never go further.
He reasons that his reputation would be ruined if Patroclus failed: No doom my noble mother revealed to me from Zeus, just this terrible pain that wounds me to the quick- when one man attempts to plunder a man his equal, to commandeer a prize, exulting so in his power. That? s the pain that wounds me, suffering such humiliation. (3) -2- He continues to persuade Patroclus, saying? … . you can win great honor, great glory for me in the eyes of all the Argive ranks? (4).
Although Achilles is appealing to Patroclus? sense of friendship, Achilles himself is estranged from his own sense of friendship because he is so blinded by his quest for glory.
In this case, Achilles alienates himself from his community. Upon Patroclus? death, Achilles awakens to the true spirit of his relationship with his friend. The glory and honor that once ruled his life now mean nothing compared to his bond with Patroclus. Achilles, the mighty warrior, falls? … overpowered in all his power, sprawled in the dust… tearing his hair, defiling it with his own hands? (5).
However, his self-inflicted alienation has cost him the life of his friend, and by the time he comes to realize that love is more important than conquest, it is too late. The result, Achilles? isolation from community and relationship, has caused him to feel intense anomy (6), that there is no meaning or reason to life. Because of Patroclus? death, he has become dehumanized and unattached to his own feelings and rational behavior. His alienation from himself then leads to his inability to actively participate in his formerly comfortable society.
... the two fight, resulting in a victory to Gilgamesh. Enkidu becomes his faithful friend. This fight and the ... epic is heavily based upon the character of Gilgamesh and Enkidu and how their character affected one another ... to humble him, the gods create Enkidu. Enkidu, a wild best of a man, seems to be primarily the ... in the story as a very arrogant and tyrannic man. The gods gave him every reason to be ...
Both The Iliad and The Odyssey teach that it takes a long time for a person who has totally been lost in a traumatizing event, such as war, to finally be found. This idea of alienation from self, or disconnection from one? s beliefs and personal history, is clear in the story of Odysseus. After his battles in the Trojan War, Odysseus must travel many years, not only to find his home, but to -3- overcome numerous obstacles to rediscover his pre-war self. The Iliad also portrays this idea of self-rediscovery as Achilles attempts to renew himself after losing himself in war. First, however, Achilles rages on, as in the episode where he slaughters the men by the river. Although he still possesses the thumos, he is working his way toward transformation.
He never makes it? home? like Odysseus, because he dies first, but this is what makes his heroism tragic. Both Achilles and Odysseus become human after living for so long as machines of war. As they rebuild their dignity, they both reabsorb into society, though Achilles only lives on as a legend of war while Odysseus goes on to rebuilds his relationships. The story of Gilgamesh portrays relationships in much the same way as The Iliad. Once they meet, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become instant friends. In fact, they are so close that they have a yin-yang type relationship whereby they are perfect complements for each other.
What Gilgamesh lacks in bravery, Enkidu makes up in courage, and what Enkidu needs in interpersonal skills, Gilgamesh provides with his position as a semi-god. The first stanza of the poem summarizes the story, stating? Gilgamesh was a god and man; / Enkidu was an animal and man. / It is the story/ Of their becoming human together? (7).
Since Gilgamesh and Enkidu are not wholly man, they are alienated from society. They cannot relate to other members of their community because they are unique. Their differences, in fact, cause the strong bond of their friendship.
The alliance between Gilgamesh and Enkidu concludes in a similar -4- fashion as the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus. As Gilgamesh and Enkidu head off into battle, Gilgamesh convinces Enkidu to lead the warriors. This resulted in Enkidu? s death and the withdrawal of Gilgamesh into deep seclusion from the public because of his guilt complex. It is as though half of him has died along with Enkidu, and he feels the emptiness just as Achilles grieves Patroclus: Gilgamesh wandered through the desert/ Alone as he had never been alone/ When he had craved but not known what he craved; / The dryness now was worse than the decay.
... NOT knowing the path. Since Gilgamesh is ? God, he makes up for some of the strength that Enkidu lacks. “When two go together ... Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven, when Enkidu rationalizes with Gilgamesh and when Gilgamesh inspires Enkidu to become less of a cowardly man. When ... will feel no fear of death… we will go down together into the heart of the forest…” (76). Enkidu quickly learns from Gilgamesh ...
The bored know nothing of this agony/ Waiting for diversion they have never lost/ Death has taken the direction he had gained. / He was no more a king/ But just a man who now had/ lost his way/ Yet had a greater passion to withdraw/ Into a deeper isolation. (8) Gilgamesh is nearly empty without his friend. Because he feels Enkidu? s death is his fault, he is disheartened even more, and, in turn, he alienates himself further from others.
Gilgamesh finds some comfort in relationships with other people, but he has really only found more purposelessness. After a discussion with Ea, the poem narrates that the transfer? … gave him pleasure, being his friend… ? , however, ? … they only know how to compete or echo… ? (9).
His self-inflicted isolation impedes Gilgamesh from interaction with other individuals. Gilgamesh spends the remainder of the poem attempting to rebuild himself as a complete person by searching for the parts of him that died with Enkidu. Near the end of the poem, the reader sees that Gilgamesh finally reconnects with his emotions, ? … realizing/ He had not come this far to hear himself/ Recall the failure of his -5- grief to save/ But to find an end to his despair? (10).
Finally, Gilgamesh is recovering from the loss of Enkidu, and he goes on to attempt to reestablish his relationships with his wife and the rest of society.
Of all stories of alienation, the tale of Job overwhelms the competition. Imagine living a nearly perfect life, complete with piety, kindness, and love, only to have it stripped away, seemingly for no reason, by a God who had been so trustworthy. This is Job? s predicament. After committing himself to living a virtuous life, God takes away all of Job? s belongings and infects him with painful abrasions. Job cannot understand why God would need or want to do this to such a faithful person, saying: Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life. It is all the same; that is why I say, ? He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
... He has evil motives toward Job. God would be eager to find even the most minuscule sin that Job might commit so that He ... a word without sounding guilty. Nonetheless, Job feels that he is blameless and wants to die. God, for some reason, lets the blameless ... to happen, when all his resources have been destroyed Job also feels that Eliphaz has failed in his obligations toward him. He ...
? When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it. (11) His inability to comprehend God? s reasoning causes him to feel alienated from his own beliefs, and the God he had once venerated. Job feels that he needs sound explanation of his condition, but none of his counselors provide him with a satisfactory justification.
Because there seems to be no reasoning behind God? s actions, Job feels estranged from his values. Gilgamesh and Achilles also sought explanation for their situations, but even the notion that they are semi-gods cannot rationalize the death of their friends. Job, like Achilles and Gilgamesh, needs to recreate the belief structure that, at one point, had always -6- been enough to explain the ways of God. In his newfound misery, these beliefs explained nothing for Job, and, therefore, he also feels alienated from his God. Plato? s Allegory of the Cave seems to apply to this situation. According to the Allegory, Job is all alone in the cave.
Although his friends try to comfort him with what they see in the shadows, the silhouettes of reality are only distorted interpretations of God? s real design and reason. Bild ad even appears to admit that his counseling is not God? s true word, declaring? our days here on earth are but a shadow, ? and he continues to say that it is the destiny of the impious to live a hopeless existence (12).
In terms of the Allegory of the Cave, God? s truth is only perverted as it is translated into shadows on the walls of the cave. Job, in his state of anomy, expresses that his? eyes have grown dim with grief; (his) whole frame is but a shadow? (13).
He is indeed alone in the cave, and in this state of alienation, the truth of God does not reach him. Job finally feels finds reason behind his circumstances when he has his direct encounter with God. In this first-hand meeting, God questions Job? s being almost as much as Job has in conversation with his counselors. God proclaims? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this? (14).
Indeed, it had been Job? s hubris that had caused him to isolate himself from his beliefs and God. Once God re-establishes Job? s understanding of his place in society and in God? s plan, Job is relieved from his alienation from himself, his community, and his God. Job confirms this when he says? … I spoke -7- of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know? (15).
... which Job sought God in prayer, God spoke directly with Job. By God speaking directly to Job, this proved that Job was an innocent man, without God ... In answer to his constant prayers God spoke with Job. While God did not address Job's question of why the calamities had ... theme throughout the history of Israel. Hence supporting the belief that evildoers or sinners were punished and the righteous were ...
God? s words bring Job to the realization that, although he is insignificant in comparison to divinity, he has no reason to feel alienated. I find that I share certain characteristics with Achilles, Gilgamesh, and Job. All of us, because of our circumstances, have felt alienation from our beliefs, our communities, or our spirituality at some point.
We don? t want to give up our faith, but we struggle to find meaning or reason behind events that happen in our lives. Achilles, Gilgamesh, and especially Job all have some type of epiphany where they reconnect or begin the process of reconnection. Although I don? t believe in God, one line in the Bible did bring me a step closer to understanding what I do believe. In Genesis, as the world was being created, God says, ? Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… ? (16).
As a Unitarian Universalist, I believe that all creatures are interrelated and have inherent worth and dignity. The fact that God uses the words? us? and? our? affirms this notion of the interconnection of all things… that we are made in the image of everything around us, from the trees to the oceans to the birds (17).
I was pleased to find personal meaning in a text from which I had alienated myself. Although there are times when we find ourselves unable or unwilling to connect with our friends, our spirituality, or even our own beliefs, we are never alone. Alienation is only a feeling we have when we think that no one or nothing else is feeling the same. But how can we feel alone when we are made in the image of everything around us? Simply, we can? t. -8- Citations 1. from the student speakers? lecture.
2. Lecky, Albin, A History of Greek Literature, trans. de Heer & Willis, London: Methuen & Co. , 1966, pp 24. 3. The Iliad, page 414, lines 59-63.
4. The Iliad, page 415, lines 97-98. 5. The Iliad, page 468, lines 28-30. 6. in-class notes.
7. The Iliad, page 15. 8. Gilgamesh, page 54. 9. Gilgamesh, page 77.
10. Gilgamesh, page 68. 11. Job 9: 21 through 9: 24. 12. Job 8: 9.
... first view. However, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh portray an obvious theme with gods possessing limits and imperfections, not ... is almost as though they are so arrogant that they find humor in watching the humans struggle. In The Illiad, Zeus ... mortals and let the gods be divine. The humans should not think that they can find immortality like Gilgamesh set out to do ...
13. Job 17: 7. 14. Job 38.
18. 15. Job 42. 3. 16. Genesis 1: 24..