Please help me compare and contrast Absurdism and Existentialism.

I am writing a paper about The Stranger by Albert Camus and i have come to the conclusion that the main themes are absurdism (camus was an absurdist) and existentialism. I am having trouble explaining the differences between the two and could use some help. This is for my 10th grade honors english and composition class. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles


Absurdism was created out of the existentialist movement. It holds to the belief that any rational thoughts that one may derive out of life or existence is meaningless, or absurd. It states that humans cannot find any meaning in the universe because meaning does not exist. Absurdism became very popular following WWII, one of the reasons being the devastation of France.


Soren Kierkegaard has been coined the "father of existentialism." He believed that the individual person is responsible for giving their life meaning. Life is presented with many obstacles along the way and people should live life as passionately as they can. Existentialism became very popular during the 1940's and 1950's.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I am not a philosopher, but I will try to simplify it.


Existentialism is the belief that life only has meaning in relation to the individual person – his emotions and thoughts. Also, it is the individual who is responsible for giving his life meaning in spite of all the opposing forces that get in the way – boredom, alienation, etc. Most existentialists did not believe in a higher power but those that did believed God may have created man, but then he left man to his own devices. There are lots of varying degrees to this belief, so this is a simplification.

Absurdism is a more extreme philosophy. Absurdism is the belief that there is no meaning to life, or no meaning in the universe, so that man’s attempts to search for such meaning are “absurd” because that meaning does not exist. Some absurdists believe in a slightly different view, that there IS meaning, but that man cannot find it, and the only thing that gives meaning to life is absurdism itself and that man should embrace the fact that life is absurd if he wants to survive. This was the view of Camus. He believed man should embrace the absurd and live in spite of it. If man could do this, this was all he could hope for in life.

Pretty grim stuff. This philosophy was in many ways an outgrowth of the pessimism inflicted upon the world after two horrific world wars that left footprints of hopelessness on the world.

If you do some research, you can define these terms even further.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial