The Myth of Sisyphus

by Albert Camus

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Student Question

Why is Sisyphus imagined as happy at the end of The Myth of Sisyphus?

Quick answer:

Albert Camus considers Sisyphus to be happy because he accepts his hopeless situation and performs his task perfectly. Camus's reasons are consistent with his concept of the absurd hero as one who does not have false hope but also does not sink into despair.

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According to Albert Camus, Sisyphus is both happy and heroic. Sisyphus is fully conscious of the difficulty and the absurdity of his position. He accepts that his situation is hopeless, and in doing so he does not delude himself by holding onto false hope of securing release from the punishment. Because the gods decreed his specific form of punishment, it would be futile to try to resist the requirement of the daily struggle of trekking uphill from bottom to top. Sisyphus must apply himself diligently and energetically to the task, because part of the mandatory labor is getting the heavy rock to the mountaintop every day. He is equally unable to fail at raising it and preventing it from rolling back down.

Camus does not deny that Sisyphus's ongoing occupation is absurd. Instead, he identifies that absurdity as the most important sources of Sisyphus's heroism.

Both his persistence and his consciousness of the challenges his labor presents are crucial to his state of happiness. Sisyphus neither succumbs to despair nor rails against any supposed unfairness. The fact that he does not become despondent or angry shows that he is a superior—that is, heroic—being. Camus considers his calm persistence as indicating that he is involved in an ongoing revolt against the divine forces that rule him.

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