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The Epic of Gilgamesh and the novel by Ch’eng-en, Wu Monkey are two stories that were created in different times, by different author, however, they both present deep reflection on whether a person (creature) can exist separated from the society, and how important friendship and support.
The Epic of Gilgamesh presents a story of a demigod and a heroic ruler Gilgamesh. A lot of people would envisage that being born a demigod, gifted with enormous power and exquisiteness, as well as being a ruler of a big city might be more than one man can handle. However, for Gilgamesh everything is different, his other human side seeks and strives for something more, for companionship. Although he has traveled all over the world, pleasing himself with several Uruk’s women, as well as gathering big armies, Gilgamesh is unable to meet a person who can entirely gratify his need in companionship. Enkidu is the only person, who happens to be created by the gods themselves, and who has a capability to fulfill Gilgamesh’s search for companionship. Following the fulfillment of his desires, he decides to put an end to his vicious way of life and, with the assistance from Enkidu, he betters the life of the city and the people therein.
Nonetheless, Gilgamesh’s ignorant poise lights up Enkidu’s knowledge of mortality. The gods grant Enkidu a diverse luck. They smack Enkindu down with a severe disease owing to his support in murdering of Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. However, before his death, he utters, “My friend, the magnificent goddess placed a cursed on me and I should die in dishonor. I shall not die like a solder fallen in battle…but happy is he who falls during battle.” (Kovacs 19) This passage sums up the total alteration of Enkidu from an animal to a human being; in the way of his acquaintance with Gilgamesh, he achieves epic values of courage and honor.
Following the death of the only true friend, Gilgamesh is once again filled with emptiness that no single person can fill. Even having all the blessing, being born to some extent a god, it now turns out to be a curse for him. Deep in his heart, he understands that he will never find a new companion and the horror of eternal solitude as well as his own death haunts him. He, therefore, decides to defeat his curse by turning out to be immortal. Although his journey ends without finding what he was looking for, the loss of companionship provides him with power, ability and empathy to be a better ruler.
Even though the gods can choose whether they need companionship or not, they are able to understand the need of a human soul to have a partner, a friend. Gods are believed to use this need when guiding a person through his/her life. The innate quest of Gilgamesh for a friend, a partner, for instance, causes his people a number of severe problems and difficulties. However, at last the Gilgamesh’s prayers are answered, and the gods send him Enkidu, a faithful friends and companion. He is the one to satisfy the ruler’s need. On the other hand, in the situation of another epic hero, Odysseus, the powerful gods kill all king’s friends and crew to exaggerate his situation and teach him a precious lesson. Using these examples, a reader can understand the difference between a man’s need for a partner and god’s choice whether to have it or not. It is also evident how gods usually use this inner need for a friend to manipulate one’s life (Kovacs 15).
The themes of determination, friendship and extensive travelling are also quite evident in Wu Ch’eng-en’s novel Monkey. The excellent use of literary devices and figurative speech succeeds in informing the reader about the impending journey of Monk Tripitaka across India in quest for the Chinese Buddhist scriptures. The story is blended with various Chinese fairly tales, legends, superstitions, monster stories and fables. Along with two other disciples the company meets on the way, the Monkey turns out to be the follower of the Tripitaka, the monk, and accompanies him in monk’s travel to Buddha to make sure that he headed West in time to get the sutras. Among the other two main disciples is the uncourageous and ever humorous pig also known as “Pigsy,” while the other is represented in a body of a monster, known as “Sandy”. They all are together; they encounter many unimaginable confrontations in the form of mystic monsters and experiences ahead of accomplishing their goal and returning to China with the scriptures. Although they have different personalities, they slowly learn to trust, appreciate and depend on each other, while still slipping in humor along the way (Wu 23).
Hsuang-tsang understands the pandemonium created by the Red Guards of Mao's Thought during the course of Cultural Revolution. It is after the confusion that the Monkey starts to appreciate that his previous needs and wishes are not appropriate to this pilgrimage. The author appreciates how the monkey, within his personal spiritual soul, had opened his inner person to accept and recognize the forgiveness and trust to other people and creatures. According to the novel, the complete journey can be construed as a spiritual mold of an effort made towards achieving self-cultivation, as well as the amassing of merit along the spiritual path. This pragmatism is changed into fantasy when Colonel Sun, the practical primeval soldier escorts the little hero on his endeavors to the West.
This virtuousness is the thought that goodness and piece can only happen after the lost Buddhist scriptures are found and brought back. The reader is persuaded to believe that the monkey is an ungrateful, undeserving greedy immortal creature. Monkey is converted into a follower of the Patriarch, who strives to be very bighearted by offering to teach the Monkey different techniques aimed at achieving immortality. The book vividly captures and recalls the situation of the year 1976, when Chinese citizens were not allowed to freely visit the United States, and the only choice was to enter the country illegally. The reader is made to understand the realism of Hsuang-tsang’s inconsiderate life in Mao during the period of the Cultural Revolution (Wu 25).
What Monkey learns is those methods to become immortal, however, he couldn’t manage the gained wisdom well, and the Patriarch discharges him from the group. Alternatively, Pigsy symbolizes a creature with unmanageable pure and sensuality appetite, and he also signifies the energy and vitality required to finish the devout path. He fights since he is overconfident with the thought that he would win. When reading the book, the reader learns to appreciate that this story is an "insightful allegory of the devout quest and as a picaresque escapade novel”.
In conclusion, the two stories present the theme of friendship in different ways, however, they both stress that a person can be influenced by the society in different ways, but he/she wouldn’t be able to reach the top without friends and their support.