The Myth of Sisyphus

by Albert Camus

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How has the Greek myth of Sisyphus influenced the modern world?

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Philosopher and author Albert Camus saw Sisyphus as a great absurd hero who loved life, hated death, and scorned the gods.  In his famous essay, "Myth of Sisyphus," Camus says that Sisyphus loved his life so much that he put Death in chains so he could live another life.  After this, he was punished by rolling a rock up a mountain, only to have it roll down again.

Camus says Sisyphus accepts his punishment, that living two lives is worth the punishment.  He even says Sisyphus is above the punishment of the gods in that he can accepts that pointless labor is absurd.  The rock is a symbol of meaningless in Sisyphus' life, and instead of the rock causing him to despair, Sisyphus learns to accept the rock's meaninglessness as part of the absurd universe.

The protagonist in Camus' novel The Stranger (written the same year, 1941, as the essay) is strikingly similar to Sisyphus.  Meursault also hates death (refuses to cry at his mother's funeral), loves life (spends the day after the funeral in the water, making love to Marie) and scorns the gods (refuses to feel guilt for his crimes).  At the end, he is beheaded--a fate similar to Sisyphus' eternal punishment--but he has no regrets (meaning he was ready to live the same life all over again).

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