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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 513

We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. . . . Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, would kill everybody on earth in order to possess Cathy, but it would never occur to him to say that murder is reasonable or theoretically defensible. He would commit it, and there his convictions end. This implies the power of love . . .

In his introduction to The Rebel, Camus contrasts the individually motivated crime of passion, which he says takes having a strong character and therefore is rare, with the mass murder "doctrine" allows. Looking back a recent crimes against humanity in the first half of the twentieth century, Camus says that they can be committed on a mass scale because the weak who perpetrate them can justify these outrages on the basis of ideology: "slave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy or by a taste for the superhuman . . . " Camus will continue throughout The Rebel to try to analyze and understand the mass murder and inhumanity of his time period.

Freedom, "that terrible word inscribed on the chariot of the storm, is the motivating principle of all revolutions. Without it, justice seems inconceivable to the rebel's mind. There comes a time, however, when justice demands the suspension of freedom.

Here, in the chapter called "Historical Rebellion," Camus muses on commonalities between the revolutions he has studied. He notes the irony that although a desire to be free from tyranny motivates revolutions, because only with freedom can justice come, once these revolutions are under way, the perpetrators, ironically, feel it is necessary to get rid of freedom in order to pursue justice. Camus also goes on to differentiate between a "revolution" and a "rebellion." Like the revolution of the earth around the sun, a political revolution is a complete cycle, a complete overturn of the former order (though it always reinstates a strong state), whereas a rebellion is simply an inchoate uprising. A revolution, in contrast to a rebellion, which is just an outcry, always tries to recast the world according to an ideological framework.

In actual fact, the Fascist revolutions of the twentieth century do not merit the title of revolution. They lacked the ambition of universality.

Camus explains that fascism was not revolutionary because it rejected Enlightenment universalism in favor of irrationality. Camus argues that because the fascist ideology was not based on reason, these states embraced nihilism. They rejected meaning, substituting force for fact. (We can see this illustrated in fiction in Orwell's 1984.) Camus states that Hitler, by making perpetual dynamism (war) the basis of the state, reduced dynamism to destructive nihilism.

At this meridian of thought, the rebel thus rejects divinity in order to share in the struggles and destiny of all men. We shall choose Ithaca, the faithful land, frugal and audacious thought, lucid action, and the generosity of the man who understands.

Rejecting the excesses, violence, torture and nihilism of various twentieth century states, Camus affirms faith, reasoned, if daring, thought, clear action and a generosity of vision based on rational understanding rather than a quest for godlike power.

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