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Summary

Albert Camus’s The Rebel analyzes the concept of rebellion in historical context and questions how it’s framed in modern life. The book begins with the author’s intention—to better understand why people continuously rebel throughout history. Camus wonders whether murder is ever justified—either when committed as a government agent or on one’s own whim. This question leads naturally to an exploration of how much one’s intention matters in the grand scheme of committing acts of rebellion or murder. Throughout the remainder of Part 1 of the book, Camus explores the history of rebellion, shares some examples of different ways in which rebellion is manifested, and further ties together the concepts of rebellion and murder.

In Part 2 of the book, Camus refers to the Bible, Greek mythology, the history of Rome, and the works of European philosophers to delve into the ways in which rebellion relates to philosophical theories, such as nihilism. Nietzsche introduced the theory of nihilism as a way to explain that there is no larger meaning to life, regardless of how we live it. Camus analyzes whether losing belief in God or a force larger than one’s self could be a catalyst for rebellion.

Part 3 examines the French Revolution. Camus takes important people and situations and reexamines them under his theories of rebellion and corruption. In each scenario, Camus asks when someone’s hope for a better future turned from positive to violent and what the reason was for each shift. As this section continues, Camus compares rebellion with revolution, arguing that rebellion is a natural instinct born of positive intentions while revolution is an irrational act born of a mob mentality to both be a part of a group—ultimately at odds with rebelling—while speaking out against a different group.

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.

In Part 4, Camus compares artists to rebels, arguing that their intentions are the same—to set oneself apart as an individual with value. Part 5 brings Camus to his present day—the mid-1950s—in the wake of WWII. While some countries have attempted to return to stasis, others are more unstable than ever before, and death has become a recognizable part of everyday life. Camus again asks...

(The entire section is 624 words.)