Exile Literary Characters in Exile Can Be Research Paper

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Literary Characters in Exile

Exile can be the self-imposed banishment from one's home or given as a form of punishment. The end result of exile is solitude. Exile affords those in it for infinite reflection of themselves, their choices, and their lives in general. Three prominent literary characters experience exile as part of the overall narrative and in that, reveal a great deal about themselves to themselves as well as to the readers. The three narratives in questions are "The Epic of Gilgamesh," "The Tempest," and "Things Fall Apart." All of the main characters of these narratives experience exile as a result of actions taken by the protagonists at earlier points in the story. The protagonist in each respective story are exiled because of their choices and the exile forces each character to face consequences that ultimately bring their inner character to the surface in a more direct manner than prior experiences or actions by these characters. The characters Gilgamesh, Prosper, and Okonwo experience exile, which alienate them from their homelands, induces physical & emotional pain, yet the experience of exile make possible their perseverance over obstacles that enriches their lives and reveals their true characters.

The first protagonist for examination is Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh chose exile himself. His exile was self imposed. He chose exile of his own free will. He perceives exile as a spiritual journey as well as emotional experience. Gilgamesh was a king with an intense selfish streak. Gilgamesh lacks compassion for his fellow human beings. His main urge in life was to usurp power from others, as "Gilgamesh was a tyrant to his people." (Mason, 15) Through the experience of friendship, Gilgamesh learns not only that he is capable of caring for another person, but also he learns how to care for another person outside of himself. More importantly, he learns to perceive companionship and compassion as strengths and not as liabilities. Furthermore, the security that Gilgamesh finds in his friendship increases his self-confidence as "Gilgamesh was certain with his friend beside him." (Mason, 31)

In exile, Gilgamesh is left alone with his friend and alone with his grievances. Gilgamesh is "overcome with pain" (Mason, 60) and chooses solitude after the death of his closest friend, Enkidu. Gilgamesh, wrought with internal pain, abandons the world he loves and over which he exerts a lot of control. The world he leaves is full of temptations such as desire, wealth, power, and pleasure to begin a new type of journey. His life does not fulfill or satisfy him; he is bored as well as distraught. He begins his new journey in the hopes of seeking eternal life because he hopes to change his fate and perhaps cheat death. In this way, Gilgamesh's journey has some similarities to the story of Prince Suddharta who left his kingdom and became Buddha. Overall, the experience of exile is fulfilling to him because he realizes and rejuvenates his sense of humanity. He experiences and embraces his emotions such as love, remorse, sadness, and acceptance.

The second protagonist for examination is Prospero from Shakespeare's great work, "The Tempest." In this case, Prospero does not choose exile like Gilgamesh. Prospero is forced into exile by his jealous brother, Antonio. Sutton argues that Prospero's story has similarities to the Biblical character Joseph from the Book of Genesis when he states, "Joseph and Prospero parallel each other as victims of jealous siblings." (Sutton, 225) Prospero exile experience is him stranded on an island for over a decade. His only company is his daughter and two servants. His bides his time in exile to once again become a powerful leader in his new surroundings. Sutton asserts another similarity between the two men, "They eventually become de facto rulers of their adopted land, using their natural abilities combined with supernatural…

Sources Used in Document:


Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: First Anchor Books Edition, 1994.

Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh A Verse Narrative. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Shakespeare, William. "The Tempest." Ed. Barbara A. Mowat & Paul Werstine. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1994.

Sutton, Brian. "Virtue Rather Than Vengeance": Genesis and Shakespeare's The Tempest." Explicator, Vol. 66, No. 4, 224-229.

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