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The role of women has changed from being oppressed to having freedom. In the novel, the role of women in the past has been clearly illustrated. Despite the fact that women have not been depicted as either the wisest or the strongest, they have a great influence on the lives of men. This essay seeks to expose the gender of women and their role in the novel.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, women are significant as they participate in the continuity of life. In the earlier periods of time, men played no role in ensuring that the life of human beings is safeguarded. Consequently, this role made men feel isolated and lose hope as they lack the ability to give birth. In the first pages of the novel, the role of women has not been clearly defined. This is because the novel attempts to illustrate the various roles that women play. In some instances, women have been depicted as very controlling. In other instances, they are subjected to harsh treatment. For example, women have the power to bring either life or death in the lives of men. Ishtar, a temple goddess, employs her power to destroy men who do not submit to her demands (George, VI, 116-118). Her former lovers have all suffered abuse. This makes Gilgamesh refuse any advances that the goddess makes towards him. Consequently, she requests her father, Anu, to send the bull of heaven, Gugalanna, to avenge her for Gilgamesh’s insult. Upon her father’s refusal to the request, Ishtar issues threats of reviving all the dead people so that they outnumber the gods. In this case, women are depicted to have the ability to bring death and life. This makes Anu submit to her demands and bring widespread destruction through the bull.
Women were seen by men as valuable advisors. For instance, Ninsun acts as a caring and loving mother to Gilgamesh. Additionally, she is Gilgamesh’s wise counselor and offers guidance whenever requested. For example, when Gilgamesh had two dreams about an axe and a meteor, he sought advice from his mother. This reflects the function of the guiding that women play in the novel. As a mother, Ninsum manages to comfort her son by analyzing his dreams and illustrating that something good was about to occur to his son. She foresaw that Enkidu will be able to return to Gilgamesh's life. For example, Ninsum states, "My son, the axe you saw is a friend...and I, Ninsun, I shall make him your equal. A mighty comrade will come to you, and be his friend's saviour..."(George, tablet 1, line 288). Uta-Napishti is another woman who was depicted as wise. She convinced her husband to tell Gilgamesh the truth about the plant that makes people young. She states, “Touch the man and make him awake! The way he came, he shall go back in well-being; by the gate he came forth he shall return to his land!” (George, XI, 216-218). Shiduri is another example of a woman who depicts wisdom in the novel. She is a tavern-keeper who gives Gilgamesh advice on how to reach Una-Napishti.
Women are seen to be distracters in the lives of men. For instance, Enkidu is sent in Gilgamesh’s life to distract him from oppressing people. The author employs Enkidu to signify a woman. Gilgamesh oppressed young women by making them have intercourse with him on their wedding night. Gilgamesh states, “Gilgamesh lets no daughter go free to her mother… let no girl go free to her bridegroom.” (George, I, 72-76). Furthermore, he oppressed young men by forcing them to construct various projects and making them tired through the test of strength. Consequently, the people cried for assistance from their gods and the gods responded by sending Enkidu. In another instance, Enkidu had to be seduced by a harlot so that he could behave like a human being. Enkidu was a primitive man who dwelt with wild animals in the forest. Enkidu was transformed immediately after having sex with the prostitute and was able to return to Uruk.
Currently, the role of women has changed in the society. Women have been allowed to do what they desire. In addition, they are treated with respect and have been given equal status to men. This shows how time has been able to change the role of women in society.