TheEpic of Gilgamesh in Freud’s Perspective
Analyzingthe Epic of Gilgamesh using Freud’s perspective
Thepatient Gilgamesh has unstable personality that is a compound of twothird human and one third god. Gilgamesh is a strong king whooppresses his people with aggressiveness, cruelty and pride. In myassessment, I feel that Gilgamesh has overt anger and pride that makehim despise his people and subject them to forced labor, ceaselessbattles and arbitrary exercise of power. Furthermore, I assess thatGilgamesh is selfish and in his wildly appetites indulgence onvarious occasions he fancies and rapes women regardless of whosewives they are. After Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh abandons hisworldly aspirations and begins to learn secrets of eternal life. Hefinds wisdom, calms and reconciles with his mortal and divineattributes. Overall, the patient symptoms are anger, aggressiveness,pride, wild desires and unstable personality.
Howare the symptoms of Gilgamesh interpreted in Freud’s perspective?
Theepic of Gilgamesh presents the King as a mighty ruler in the kingdom,a powerful mortal above laws and social ethics. Gilgamesh illbehaviors could be interpreted through psychoanalytic perspectives. Iwill apply three psychoanalytic dimensions that explain influences toGilgamesh bad attitudes and behaviors. These dimensions are the ego,the superego and the Id. In my assessment, Gilgamesh wild desires,aggressiveness and hate against his people is as a result ofuncontrolled id forces, weak ego and suppressed superego. Gilgameshpursues his wild desires against social ethics he sleeps withpeople’s wives, daughters without shame.
Iagree with the statement that ‘manis a wolf’as exemplified by Gilgamesh perverted and aggressive human natureagainst his people. Gilgamesh Id manifests itself as the animal partin his wild desires and appetites that are beyond reason. The Idmakes him dangerous and he lives in self-denial when obstructed orchallenged in satisfying his innate desires. Gilgamesh does notthink he is doing wrong and he sees himself as above others. All hisemotions such as love, hate, anger and pity are controlled by his id.
Mysecond dimension in interpreting Gilgamesh ill character is throughhis ego. Ego serves as a balance between overt desires and emotionsinfluenced by the id. In addition, the ego acts as the center ofrationality helping people act rationally when seeking satisfactionfor innate desires. In my analysis, Gilgamesh ego is suppressed andhe appears vaguely aware of his aggressive and wild libidinousemotions projected by his strong id. I assess that, his actions aredevoid of rationality he lives in complete denial and is grosslysupped in reaction formation. He turns his feelings to others. Forinstance, he subjects other men to strong labor in order to suppresstheir masculinity and challenge his manly desires. When I challengehim for his ill behaviors against his people, Gilgamesh defendshimself that as a king he deserves such privileges this is bloatedego.
Mythird dimension of interpreting Gilgamesh character is through thesuperego. Superego is similar to the ego and serves as epitome ofethics in suppressing and controlling wild desires while orientingpeople to act flawlessly. The superego guides and directs individualsto act along social ethics rather than through individualrationality. Human nature is controlled by the id ‘humans strivefor happiness.’ I feel that, Gilgamesh superego is suppressed byhis strong id. Gilgamesh feels that he is above other members ofsociety (id influence) the super-ego in him is thus weak on thebasis that he does not consider social ethics and norms as applicableto him. He despises the gods and his people because his feelings aredisplaced. There is no one to challenge him to sublimate his illcharacter.
Overall,I think, Gilgamesh is full of himself and power, reigns with hisemotions (id) rather than reason (ego). The reason he feelsthreatened or stressed is due to strong forces of the id. Gilgameshthus regresses to cruelty and dictatorial overtures to retain hiscommand. In my view, these impulsive antics of aggressiveness arehuman nature (id) seeking self-glorification at the expense what issocially expected (superego).
Itis my view that Gilgamesh subjects other men to horrendous workostensibly to weaken their masculinity while he pursues his wilddesires with women. In my assessment, this is as a result of strongid seeking to exalt his masculinity. Gilgamesh believes that he has anear perfection to god and he does not recognize any form of socialethics or rules that may control his wild behaviors. I see Enkidu asthe superego Enkidu calms Gilgamesh making him reduce his wilddesires. In my analysis, Enkidu helps Gilgamesh superego work, andthis normalizes the kings’ primitive sexual desires and violentbehaviors.
Inmy interpretation, I assess that Enkidu fails in his task to calmGilgamesh desires because he also possesses a strong id. The goddessIshtar sends a bull to Gilgamesh Kingdom when he refuses to becomeher lover. In my opinion, the bull and Ishtar help arouse thesuperego that controls the Kings wild behaviors. I see Enkidu as analter-ego sent to counter Gilgamesh bloated ego his behaviors areopposite to that of a normal person. This is evidenced with Enkiduappearance that temporarily normalizes Gilgamesh behaviors. WhenEnkidu dies, Gilgamesh regresses to his cruel behaviors symbolizingthe absence of alter-ego. In my perspective, the epic of Gilgameshdepicts a man in his journey of self-discovery full of id anddeficient in ego and superego drives.
HowAnzaldua might re-interpret Freud’s Analysis
Anzalduafocus on three important ‘borderlands’ that influences ofindividual’s character the psychological, the sexual and thespiritual borderland. In her opinion of borderland, she shows how thephysical and mental borderlands are in constant struggle foridentity. Freud had argued that individuals are influenced by innateforces of id, ego and the super-ego. In the same way, Anzalduaappears to build on this perspective when she asserts that, themental and physical borderlands are in a constant struggle to pushone to new things. Freud had argued that the id is responsible forthe aggressive emotional pursuit in human beings, the ego and thesuperego tries to restrain individuals into acting within theconfines of culturally expected values.
Inthe same way, Anzaldua sees the mental borderlands as restrainingindividuals to act within the borderlands of one’s tradition. Freudhad argued that individuals are in a constant struggle between theforces of id, ego and the superego forces. Anzaldua’s statementthat ‘borderlandscan tear down one’s part while building others,’is similar to Freud’s argument on identity conflicts. In order forone to understand, they must overcome the border struggle or identityconflict in Freud’s perspective. In relation to Gilgameshcharacter, both Anzaldua and Freud’s perspectives could be used toexplain the identity crisis and self-discovery problems faced byGilgamesh. Gilgamesh has to wade through his strong id and ego inorder to calm his aggressive and primitive libidinous desires.Anzaldua argues that one needs to overcome mental, spiritual andphysical borderlands. Gilgamesh is faced with similar struggles(spiritual, mental and physical) as he tries to discover his trueidentity (between been a mortal and a human). Therefore, Anzalduaperspective (borderlands) is similar to Freud’s psychoanalytictheory on human struggle to self-identity.