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Representation of Camus’s Idea of the Absurd through the Story of Sisyphus: Analytical Essay

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According to Albert Camus, the Absurd is man’s impossible search for meaning in life arising from our desire to understand the world and our existence but never being able to. Camus expands upon this idea by stating that the only response to the absurdity of life is Revolt and not suicide. In this essay, I argue in support of Camus’ view that Revolt is essential because both physical and philosophical suicide represent giving up. Revolt is the only way for us to find happiness and satisfaction in life.

The structure of this paper is as follows: In the first section, I elaborate upon Camus’s idea of the Absurd through the story of Sisyphus and draw links to our human existence. In the second section, I describe two forms of suicide, Physical Suicide and Philosophical Suicide and explain why they are not ideal solutions to dealing with the Absurd. In the third section, I describe the idea Revolt and why it is necessary. In the last section, I summarize by describing what it means to live according to Camus’s principles.

Camus’s essay revolves around Sisyphus, king of Corinth in Ancient Greek mythology. Sisyphus was known for his cunning mischief. After fooling the gods and cheating death twice, he was sentenced to the punishment of rolling a stone up a hill from the lair of the Gods to the top of the hill for all of eternity. Every time he reached the top, the stone would roll down again to the bottom and Sisyphus had to make his way back down and to repeat his task in an endless cycle. Sisyphus’s story is in many ways analogous to and representative of the human condition. For example, in the context of our five-day work week, just like how Sisyphus does, we start rolling our metaphorical stone up the hill every Monday. On Friday, it reaches the top of the hill and rolls back down almost immediately. We make our way back down the hill on the weekend and start the same cycle all over again on Monday. Similar to Sisyphus, we are condemned to restart the futile and repetitive experience of every day life.

What is most crucial is the time when Sisyphus makes his way down to the bottom of the hill as this represents Sisyphus’s awareness and consciousness of his doomed fate. This marks the decisive moment when Sisyphus can either despair at the horror of his condition or embrace it and press on with resilience. Camus is not making the new assertion that our lives are futile and meaningless. Rather, Camus states that the consciousness of the meaninglessness of our lives is well-known and beyond that, that this meaninglessness is natural. Humans have always longed to know the reasons of our existence and the transcendent powers of the universe. However, this is impossible to know. We will always only understand the world in our own human terms and we will never know the real meaning of life beyond our naïve perspectives. We want to understand everything but nature is inherently unknowable. We can subscribe to theories or make predictions, but we can never know true reality. This mismatch between our minds and the world is known as the experience of Absurdity.

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Translating Absurdity to our everyday lives, humans toil day in and day out only for our efforts to result in our own impending deaths. If everything we do culminates ultimately in death, then what is the point of our goals and struggles? Should we just commit suicide and stop living right now if we are going to die anyway? This realisation of the Absurdity of life is understandably draining. Every day, we are subjected to more burdens on our shoulders than we can cope with and to realise that that is meaningless would cause most people to be depressed. Living means to carry on with the Absurd and to also contemplate it on a daily basis. As this may be too much for people to handle, we need to make a decision when our mind reaches our limits.

To some, this decision is Physical Suicide as it seems like the only reasonable freedom and liberation from the torturous Absurdity of life. However, as the saying goes, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide means to give up life entirely and accept the Absurdity instead of fighting against it. Similarly, there is also the concept of Philosophical Suicide which means to abandon rationality and take a leap of faith to believe in God. Instead of dealing with the Absurd, we decide that we do not need to know or accept life’s hard truths. We decide ourselves into following an easy philosophy instead of dealing with the truth.

Thus, Camus sates that the only morally admirable response to life is to endure the tension of Absurdity. It is to realise that we can live a life devoid of the true understanding of man’s meaning or purpose. Even if we will eventually face death, there is still a multitude of reasons and ways to continue experiencing and enjoying life. This decision to acknowledge the Absurd and carry on in an unreasonable world is termed Revolt. Camus states that in dealing with the Absurd life, we should also exercise Freedom in thinking and behaving accordingly to our choices. Lastly, we should also have the Passion to pursue a diverse range of rich and meaningful experiences. Together, Revolt, Freedom, and Passion make up Camus’s three main characteristics of the Absurd life.

Camus goes on to explain three real-life representations of man living the Absurd life. Firstly, the Seducer chooses to live a full and passionate life. He goes from woman to woman and lives in the passions of the present moment. He knows his seductions are meaningless and that he is not likely to find true love but he does not care. He is fully aware of himself and what he is doing and embraces it. The second example is the Actor who lives the lives of others on stage throughout his career, embracing each of them. He realises that his fame may be temporary and may not carry on past his life but he is okay with living in the present. The last example is the Conquerer. Even though he may experience death and may not make a huge mark on history, he understands the necessity in engaging in warfare for present concerns.

Going back to the story of Sisyphus, it is therefore possible to imagine Sisyphus as happy despite his predicament. Sisyphus cannot change his fate but he can change how he perceives it. Revolting against Absurdity is a state of mind. As long as he accepts that there is nothing more to his life that his struggle, he can find happiness. It is only without a sense of victim mentality or hopelessness that he can become superior to his fate and stronger than his rock. Similarly, we should all realise that happiness is not based on our outcome, instead it means appreciating our present circumstances and the everyday journey we go through despite our struggles.

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Representation of Camus’s Idea of the Absurd through the Story of Sisyphus: Analytical Essay. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-camuss-idea-of-the-absurd-through-the-story-of-sisyphus-analytical-essay/
“Representation of Camus’s Idea of the Absurd through the Story of Sisyphus: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-camuss-idea-of-the-absurd-through-the-story-of-sisyphus-analytical-essay/
Representation of Camus’s Idea of the Absurd through the Story of Sisyphus: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-camuss-idea-of-the-absurd-through-the-story-of-sisyphus-analytical-essay/> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
Representation of Camus’s Idea of the Absurd through the Story of Sisyphus: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-camuss-idea-of-the-absurd-through-the-story-of-sisyphus-analytical-essay/
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