Coming of Age in Literature A theme is being traced through the three stories of Nights, Sundiata, and Gilgamesh. It is the coming of age of a child or man in a story. In all of these stories, a child or man who has to face many challenges is part of coming of age. In Nights, the young man has to face a German refugee camp and has to basically face death or as close as you can come to it. In Sundiata, young Sundiata has to face many challenges in growing up, and in Gilgamesh, a man had to face a long strenuous journey in result of his coming of age. Therefore, it will be shown how each theme of coming of age relates in each story.
Sundiata is about a young man who is destined to be king but he cannot walk at the age of seven. As result of this misfortune Sassouma decides to take the throne and treats all the people badly. One-day Sundiata's mom asked Sassouma for some boabab leaves because her son could not get the leaves. Sassouma replied I have a calabash full. Help yourself, you poor woman. As for me my son knew how to walk at the age of seven and it is he who went and picked these Boabab leaves.
Take them since your son is unequal to mine. (Niane, 105). Although she gave her the leaves, she made fun of her right to her face. This enraged Sundiata and he dropped his crutches he used to walk and went and picked up a whole boabab tree and brought it to his mother's door. This was the first part of his coming of age because, now everyone started to realize that he is the great king predicted. The second part of his coming of age is he actually had to fight Soumaoro in battle and this was the biggest part of his coming of age.
In this battle Sundiata defeats Soumaoro regains his right to the throne. In all this, Sundiata had to grow up and take responsibility for his age and destiny. So all these actions were in result of his coming of age. In Gilgamesh a man named Gilgamesh who i half man and half god; he confronts many problems from the gods and from nature. In this story Gilgamesh is sent on a journey to find eternal youth plant. He has to overcome many enemies and forces of nature to complete his journey and come of age.
For example, when he arrived at the young woman's house and she said If you are that Gilgamesh who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven, who killed the watchman of the forest, who over threw Hum baba that lived in that forest, and killed those loins in the passes of the mountain, why are your cheeks so starved and why is your face so drawn Why is despair in your heart ad your face like the face of one who has made a long journey (Sandars, 143) He has to complete the missions to become wiser and gain respect from his people. Although he does not complete his mission successfully he reaches were he had to go and gains much knowledge and power. He also makes many friends and finds out many things about life that he did not know before he went on his journey to find everlasting eternal life. All these happenings were all part of coming of age. Without these accomplishments he would never of had the chance to obtain this knowledge, power, and intuition about life. He found out many knew things on his journey, which were all part of coming of age.
So Gilgamesh is also a good example of coming of age even when you are older, and know matter how old you are, you still have things you can learn. Moreover, every time you experience something knew you learn something that you can also teach others, which encourages them to learn. In Nights a young man and his Jewish family are moved to a German concentration. This young boy has to face reality that he will never see his home or most of his family ever again. He does not realize this until after it has happened though. He takes a long train ride with horrible conditions, and they have nothing but food rations and what ever personal belongings they can take with them.
The Germans eventually take these items and anything found later would be ground for killing the beholder of the property. They took all this property so they could use it to buy supplies and so they could not use it to bribe people to let them go or to find out what was going to happen to them. The young man had to walk straight up to a burning pit and come as close to facing death as any person should, could, or would want to. The events he had to face were pretty much part of his coming of age. If he was not as old as he was or if he did not lie about his age he would have been burnt alive right on the spot in a big hole of fire. So coming of age pretty much saved this young man's life.
He also planned to end his life by jumping on to an electric fence rather than being burnt to death. There it was now, right in front of us, the pit of flames. I gathered all that was left of my strength, so that I could break from the ranks and throw my self upon the barbed wire. In the depths of my heart, I bade farewell to my father, to the whole universe; and, in spite of my self, the words formed themselves and issued in a whisper from my lips: Yitgadal veyitkadach shme' rab a (Wiesel, 1240) This was part of his coming of age because it would take a man to do such a thing. Deciding not to burn to death like the rest of the people and not giving the Nazis the satisfaction of seeing him burning to death was definitely an example of coming of age.
Although he did not have to carry through with it, just knowing he was going to do it in his mind shows maturity. All of these stories contained the coming of age of men and boys, which is very important in life and literature. It is used to show maturity, and how an upbringing can and may effect your future actions and decisions. So, this technique used in Sundiata, Nights, and Gilgamesh was used to show how they grow and mature over time and situations.
Work Cited Page 1) Niane, D.T... The Corner Store. World Literature. Ed. G.D. Picket. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc, 1993.105-115.2) Sandars, N.K... Epic of Gilgamesh.
World Literature. Ed. David Leeming. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1993.139-151.