Albert Camus’s “The Myth of Sisyphus”

A few lines…

Albert Camus wrote a famous essay entitled “The Myth of Sisyphus,” describing a heroic rebel’s eternal punishment of pushing a rock uphill.  Two sections of the story confuse us the most.  First, Camus tells us that Sisyphus’s tragedy–the absurd situation– is not the laborious heaving of the rock.  This is confusing because we can feel his labor at such a meaningless task.  His continual pointless pushing seems to be the tragedy.  However, Camus tells us that the tragedy is in the pause, his return to the rock.  Second, in the end we’re invited to imagine him happy–we must imagine him happy.  How can the absurd man be happy with a meaningless life?

At first glance, it’s difficult to grasp Sisyphus’s absurd situation without imagining ourselves shouldering the rock, perhaps not literally, but imaginatively.  At least temporarily, we must let go of our own personalities, release the grip from our own desires and needs, and imagine his feelings–the torment, jealousy, rage, rebellion.  We must be willing to suspend disbelief and enter the possible worlds of fiction, take note of alternative realities.  Then we shall see the truth.

That is, Sisyphus’s tragic absurdity involves his boundless consciousness.  He curses the gods, rages against them, and thinks of little else than a life he could have had.  We imagine him happy because such thoughts motivate him to seek the rock over and again.  His consciousness of the meaningless of his task, and his hatred of the gods, consequently makes his existence meaningful.


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