Comparison of Literature
This paper will discuss the parallelism of three unconventional leaders from different cultures and time period - Comparison of Literature introduction. Like most leaders, the protagonists in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart are all very powerful yet their leadership was misguided because of certain reasons. Their stories, though written in different time periods, present a certain parallelism in most of the leaderships today. Their stories are a reflection of the common mistakes made by leaders at the same time they are proof that mistakes choose no time period and no great leaders.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written among the three so it is just right to discuss it first. The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem believed to have “originated in Ancient Mesopotamia and is considered as among the earliest literary fiction works. Scholars often infer that Gilgamesh could have actually existed and in the late Early Dysnatic II period (27th Century B.C. Gilgamesh’s story revolves around his leadership and his friend Enkidu—a half-wild who takes on a perilous journey for immortality with Gilgamesh (Gallery, 1985, p. xviii).” The epic focuses primarily on Gilgamesh’s negative thoughts especially after Enkidu dies. He becomes disheartened and distracted by his leadership. The epic “starts with the introduction of Gilgamesh, the greatest king on earth. He is two-thirds god and one-third human and is considered as the strongest King-God who ever existed (Armenian General Benevolent Union, 1960, p. 26).” However, his fellowmen are not happy with his leadership. They say that he abuses his power by being unsympathetic to his people and sleeps with numerous women every night. This led the “goddess of creation Aruru to create the wild-man Enkidu who will be Gilgamesh’s close friend and right hand. For pride and glory, Gilgamesh’s proposes to travel to the dangerous Cedar Forest to cut trees and kill the demon Humbaba (Gallery, 1985, p. 113).” This was Gilgamesh’s way of somehow regaining the respect of his countrymen. On the way to the forest, Gilgamesh had five bad dreams but Enkidu encourages him by saying those are good omens.
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The two served as strength for each other whenever one is having the occasional lows during the plight of the journey. When the two had finally encountered the demon Humbaba, it was Gilgamesh who was now discouraged but Enkidu encouraged him otherwise. After the ecounter with Humbaba, Endiku had a dream that someone is to be punished for killing Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven and in the end, it was Endiku who was punished. Gilgamesh grieved heavily over the death of Endiku and offered many gifts to gods just so they can be together in the netherworld. Gilgamesh sets out yet another journey to avoid Enkidu’s fate—the quest for immortality. In his journey, a lot of prophets have tried to dissuade him from his journey and explained about his incorrigible fate. Gilgamesh was offered by the flood hero Utnapishtim a chance to be immortal. The great flood hero challenged him not to sleep in six days and seven nights but right after the hero finished his words, Gilgamesh fell asleep. When Gilgamesh woke up and discovered his failure, his wife begged mercy to give him another chance. Utnapishtim asked Gilgamesh to bind stones to his feet so he can reach the bottom of the sea. This act will lead him to the plant that will make him young again. Gilgamesh does what he was asked to do but he does not trust the plant. Instead, he plans on testing it to a man when he gets back to Uruk. Unfortunately, he left the plant on the shore of the lake while bathing and a serpent got it. The serpent then lost its old skin and was reborn. Gilgamesh just wept in despair (Gallery, 1985, p. 113).”
The Epic of Gilgamesh shows how weak of a leader Gilgamesh is. His greatness was not put into proper use and his attitude towards things is crooked. He doesn’t trust his people and likewise, his people don’t trust him. He was just after power and glory to impress his people and not after service. The mistakes that he made and his lack of courage to face obstacles are keys to his perdition.
William Shakespeare’s The Tempest talks about the acts of vengeance of leader whose power was usurped from him. The story opens with a storm strikes a ship carrying Ferdinand, Alonso, Sebastian, Gonzalo and Trinculo. They are on their way after attending the wedding of Alonso’s daughter Claribel to the Tunis Prince in Africa. Everyone in the ship including the mariners (except for Boatswain) feared for their lives. The next scene opens more quietly as Prospero (the protagonist) and Miranda stand on their island, looking out at the shipwreck. The merciful Miranda asks her father to help the souls in the ship. Prospero then assures her that he took care of their safety already. This prompted Prospero to tell the truth to Miranda. Prospero was originally the Duke of Milan until his brother, Antonio, who conspired with Alonso, the king of Naples usurped the position from him. Gonzalo helped Prospero escape with his daughter along with his books of magic and power. It has been twelve years since this tragedy happened and it is only now that Fortune sent enemies his way. Prospero charmed Miranda to sleep to talk with his magical agent Ariel. Ariel and Prospero’s discussions exposed that Ariel brought the tempest to the ship but made sure that everyone got safe in the island. Prospero and Ariel had a little argument about freeing Ariel but it was immediately finished. Prospero then asked Ariel to be invisible to all but Prospero to observe the actions of his enemies. He sends Ariel to two mysterious missions: the first is to play cupid for his daughter Miranda and Ferdinand. The second is to create chaos and confusion among the survivors of the tempest. Ariel plays music that made everyone but Sebastian and Alonso sleep. They started discussing the possibility of killing their companions. When they drew their swords out, Ariel causes Gonzalo to wake with a shout and the two concoct a ridiculous story about saving the king from the lions. Caliban, Stefano and Trinculo are now so drunk and Ariel caused them to fight with one another. Then eventually decided to hunt and kill Prospero. Ariel then tells his master of the plans of three and how he misled them by playing music. Prospero and Ariel set a trap by hanging beautiful cloths in Prospero’s cell. Trinculo, Stefano and Caliban reached Prospero’s place and were attracted by the beautiful clothing and decided to steal it. They were haunted by hounds and dogs. Prospero tells Ariel to bring the three to him and he confronts them. The confrontation led to a good ending as forgiveness prevailed upon them. Prospero even invited the men to stay for the night to tell his obstacles for the past twelve years. The groups returned to Italy and Prospero got his dukedom back. Prospero then gives Ariel one last mission: to make sure that the sea is calm on his voyage back. In the end, Prospero delivers a speech to the audience asking for forgiveness and applause (Stephen, 1985, p. 5-10).
Prospero’s story was quite understandable for the reason that his power was usurped to him. However, revenge is not always done in a good way and the lives of many people were put into danger. Because of power, he was forced to do a bad thing but unlike Gilgames, Prospero’s ending was good because he got his dukedom back and was forgiven by the people.
The novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is considered a milestone in African literature and has achieved the archetypal modern African novel. Most of the story took place in Umuofia, a powerful clan located in one of the nine villages of lower Niger. Umuofia is one of the powerful villages in lower Niger. It is home to a great population skilled in war and with great traditions. The leader of this village is Onkokwo who is started from nothing then slowly rose to a high position. Haunted by his father’s weakness, Onkokwo struggled to prove that he isn’t like his father (who is a lazy man and owes a lot of debt from the village people). Onkokwo became a great man to his village through hard work. He has three wives and his barn is full of crops. Every thing was going well in the village until a clan offended Umuofia. To avoid war, one virgin and one boy is given to the offended clan. The virgin will become a wife of the offended part and the boy is to be sacrificed. The boy to be sacrificed is Ikemefuna. He started all the trouble because Onkokwo was very close to him and his family. He lived with Onkokwo’s family for three years and his eldest son considered Ikemefuna as his brother. Afraid to be called weak and soft-hearted, Onkokwo participates in the killing of Ikemefuna that caused the disappointment of his eldest son. Onkokwo was shaken with the event but he continues to lead his village. His favorite daughter Ezinma, was once brought by the oracle to a faraway light. Worried, Onkokwo follows and the next thing that the village heard was the explosion of Onkokwo’s gun. In accordance of the law of the village, Onkokwo and his family must be exiled. And the great leader accepted the exile with much bitterness. Onkokwo and his family stayed at his mother’s house during the exile. During the course of his exile, whites have started to invade Umuofia—causing the change of religion, belief and leadership of the people in the village. Onkokwo returns to the village with much sadness with the change that happened to the village. And it came to the point that the clan had to meet to decide whether they plan to live peacefully with the whites or not. Onkokwo wants war. The whites sent court messenger to the meeting (which was considered sacred) to disrupt the deliberation going on. Angered, Onkokwo kills the court messenger. Onkokwo is aware that his people will not choose war and his village will not follow his resistance. And for that, Onkokwo returns home and kills himself (Achebe, 1958, p. 13-120).
Onkokwo’s actions all rooted from the love of his village. He wanted to save his people from the whites so as to preserve their tradition and culture. However, his actions were not the best solution to the problem and he was not supported by his people in his cause thus leading him to commit suicide.
These three leaders all want the same thing: leadership, power and glory. Although their intentions to their people are good, they commit mistakes along the course of their leadership that greatly affected their country or territory.
Their stories lead us to one of the universal truths of leadership that in a certain term, a leader commits countless mistakes but it is up to him if he wants to succeed, give up or continue the fight—just like our protagonists in the three stories who treated their situation differently. In the end, the success of a country all boils down to the attitude and character of a leader and the support of his people.
Achebe, C. (1958). Things Fall Apart. England: Oxford University Press.
Armenian General Benevolent Union (1960). Ararat. USA: Armenian General Benevolent
Dalley, S. (1991). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. England: Oxford University Press.
Gallery, M. (1985). The Epic of Gilgamesh. California: Stanford University.
Stephen, M. (2004). The Works of William Shakespeare. New York: Free Press.