Class XIII + Albert Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus

ENGL 2150. class XIII Notes on Camus and The Myth o Sisyphus

ENGL 2150 summary exp and creative handout. 2013

As we switch gears and go into creative and/or expository summary modums (please read the handout care/fully), make sure you are actively reading, annotating, and engaging these next few texts, creatively and critically. No question should go unwritten or unasked. As well, find the new yet same reading attached, below.

Albert Camus – The Myth of Sisyphus

(This time, read from the Preface to the end of the essay, “An Absurd Reasoning”.)

25 thoughts on “Class XIII + Albert Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus

  1. According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from the Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, Sisyphus, who has been said has cheated death, was punished by the gods and sent to the underworld, to an “eternity of futile and hopeless labor” (pg75). In our class discussion we discussed other more harsher ways Sisyphus can be punished for example for example death itself could of been a punishment due to the fact that he cheated death, as well as without life there is nothing. However, even though he was punished by pushing the rock up the mountain endlessly he was still granted life for eternity.

  2. According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” he about how Hades had condemned Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” Of the words within that phrase, the word “labor” may frighten many. People just don’t like manual labor, and forced manual labor even more so. It’s a dreadful punishment – it’s part of the reason why labor camps are not considered ethical (to the more developed countries). Camus uses the adjectives “futile” and “hopeless” which makes it even more frightening. To know that nothing you do matters at all (which is already true because physics says so) is a pretty terrifying thought in itself.
    However, the most important word in the phrase is “eternity”. Eternity implies forever, meaning no ending, and no death. That means living on while everyone else in one’s life dies and becomes nothing more than dust. That is absolutely terrifying, and if it happens to be fine to someone, then they have not truly experienced loneliness or depression. During depression, one will feel far more pain than they would ever care to feel again, and having an eternity of doing any one activity will be stale. Again, there are those who will say that this isn’t the case, but eternity is timeless – it will literally never end, ever.
    In the Greek myth, Sisyphus is condemned to an eternity of pushing a boulder to the top of a hill – a task that would never be completed. It fills the criteria for being the worst punishment possible simply for being an eternity of anything, where nothing ever changes and nothing ever will.

  3. In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Albert Camus states that the gods had condemned Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” On the contrary, I do not believe that this is the worst form punishment possible. According to the story, Hades has the power to sentence Sisyphus to an eternal punishment. This means that he has the power to sentence him to an eternity of physical torture, whether being physical or mental. It seems that the punishment that Sisyphus was actually given was rather lenient in comparison with all the forms of torture available. An eternity of labor is definitely not the worst possible punishment available.

  4. “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, by Albert Camus, tells the story of a man who has been sentenced to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” Hades, the god of the underworld, punished Sisyphus with this fate, as retribution for Sisyphus’s deceit. His “labor”, which is to toil all day pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see the rock tumble down to the bottom after he finishes, may not seem as bad as physical torture. However, after further scrutiny, one may realize that it is the worst possible punishment one can be given.
    A daily routine of only one activity is enough to drive a man insane. If a person was destined to eating ice cream all day for the rest of his/her life, even that would make the person go crazy. This is actual labor, and therefore astoundingly horrible.
    Though, death may seem like the worst possible punishment, one would probably wish for death after dealing with two weeks of this punishment. Sisyphus was condemned to this labor for “eternity”.

  5. In the “Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus tells a story about a man that was punished to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” This punishment wasn’t meant to physically abuse Sisyphus; it was more of a mental punishment. After some time of doing the same thing over and over he becomes immune to any physical pain this may have on him. However, mental pain is something that isn’t as easy to overcome. Pushing the rock up the mountain every day and seeing his whole days progress just collapse hurts mentally. Knowing that he will have to do it again tomorrow and still have no progress hurts much more. This is why a punishment of pointless and non-progressing labor is a terrible punishment and can be compared to death.

  6. According to the “Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus stated that the gods condemned Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor”. This was a punishment where Sisyphus cheated death and avoided. After a long period of time of Sisyphus suffering from this punishment mentally, he develops an immunity against the physical suffering of the hopeless labor. For a long, he unsuccessfully pushes a boulder up and down a mountain day after day. Although this may physically hurt his body, pushing the boulder up the mountain is intentionally impossible and this take away the concept of hope. Since there is no hope, there is nothing for Sisyphus to look forward to and nothing would change day by day. He will always be pushing this boulder and he will always struggle unsuccessful, that is why this eternal and hopeless punishment is by far, more punishable than death. There is an end when there is death, there is no end when there is “eternity”.

  7. According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays written in 1945, the gods had condemned Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor” (74). Eternity represents something that is endless. Futile can be defined as the act of doing something does not matter for the outcome will always be the same. Hopeless is to be without faith that something good can happen and labor represents work. Sisyphus was punished by the gods to continually roll a rock up a mountain. This punishment that Sisyphus received was thought to be the worst possible sentence. However, there are several punishments that are far worse that having to repeat a single task for all eternity. Such examples are torture, being alone and to die from starvation. Though, the worst possible punishment is the act of suicide, to take one’s own life. Life is treasured for there is nothing similar to living. Sisyphus valued his life dearly. The reason that condemned by the gods was because he cheated death. To have a person take away their life is the worst possible punishment for without life, one cannot think, socialize, write, read, or do any of the things that the world has to offer.
    Camus states “Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit” (75). In the act of Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain, he is aspiring to reach the top. As he retreats back to the bottom, he stands where he started, but this time it is a new beginning. For Sisyphus, it is the same task but another trial, for the first time rolling the rock up the mountain is not exactly going to be the same as the second or the third and so on. The gods thought this to be the worst possible punishment, but instead, one may believe that Sisyphus finds happiness in this endless task because he knows that he is destined to have another day to push the rock up again and try to succeed.

    -G.E.M.

  8. According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from the Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, Sisyphus was condemned to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor,” by pushing a large rock up to the top of a mountain because of his crimes against the gods and cheating death. An eternity literally means forever. Forever of anything isn’t a good thing. The sentence is already off to a poor start. Futile means an action or object is pointless. Hopeless means there is no possibility of solution. Labor means hard physical work. The gods believed using a huge amount of effort for something that could not be accomplished was the worst punishment. But, there are far worse punishments. Death could be considered one, but that would be the end of a person’s life and it would not give anyone closure. The point of a punishment is to reprimand a person for doing something wrong. The worst punishment would be piercing one with flaming swords for an eternity. He/she would experience an immense amount of pain. Some authority figures, like parents or judges, might think death is a worse punishment. But, a punishment is given so the wrongdoer is forced to reflect on what he/she did. If he/she dies, there is no chance to reflect. It would be the end of the wrongdoer’s life. Pain forces one to reflect on what happened, why that particular action was wrong and discover why the pain is present now.

  9. Death is an inevitable and undesirable fate for almost every man, but Sisyphus was able to cheat his way out of it. His deceit eventually brought upon the worst punishment possible. According to Albert Camu in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays written in 1945, the gods condemned him to an “eternity of futile and hopeless labor” (74). This illustrates Sisyphus’ never ending torment of pushing a rock up onto a mountain only to see it roll down with him. Hades, the punisher, not only hopes to exhaust Sisyphus, but also force him to give up his love of life by implementing such a meaningless labor. Despite surviving in such an unrelenting life of toil, Sisyphus still stubbornly revolts against death, and thus, becomes an absurd hero. His true tragedy begins when he goes back down the mountain to start over again, because that is when he will experience a moment of consciousness, where he will have to acknowledge his own hopeless and inescapable fate. Such a punishment is worse than death, because his constant rebellion against dying makes it impossible for him to live in contentment; Sisyphus is eternally unable to let go.

  10. The punishment that Sisyphus received is not the worst punishment that he could have been subjected to for his acts. Even in this ceaseless and futile labor, he somehow found a way to realize some sort of achievement in his “hour of consciousness” as he watches the rock roll down the hill again. When he hauls the rock to the top of the hill once more, there is a moment for him to look forward to, even in his torture. Even in punishment, Sisyphus triumphs over Hades in some sense because he is forced to repeat the task over and over again for eternity; meaning he is considered immortal. This is a significant achievement or privilege for any mortal, for the eventual outcome is death for all mortals. Sisyphus is endowed with one of the privileges of the gods.

  11. What if one had to do the same task everyday for an eternity? According to “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus, the gods had condemned Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.”(75) Sisyphus’s punishment was to roll a stone to the top of a mountain, see it come back down and roll it up the mountain again, for eternity. This punishment can be seen as the worst punishment because it would be done for eternity and without the hope of ever doing something different. Eternity is defined by an infinite amount of time. If one does the same task for a certain amount of time, there is not much of an effect, however if one would have to do a task for an endless amount of times, the task would become one’s never ending nightmare. The punishment assigned by the gods is the worst possible punishment, but it is not for Sisyphus.

    According to Camus, Sisyphus is the “absurd hero.” (76). He is the absurd hero because he is conscious and aware of his punishment and accepts is. This is seen as he sees the stone roll back down the mountain and becomes aware and accepts that he will have to roll it back to the top of the mountain. When Sisyphus realizes his “fate” (78), he begins to enjoy it and this punishment becomes another joy of life for him. For Sisyphus, death would be the worst punishment, because he would not live and therefore not enjoy anything.

  12. How does a man who is suffering through a cruel punishment of being made to do an endless, laborious task become content with his fate? This is what Albert Camus answers in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. According to Camus, Sisyphus, a mere, mortal human being, is punished by the gods for betraying Zeus, and is done so by making the man push a giant boulder up a hill, only to have it constantly roll back down. He was condemned to an eternity of “futile and hopeless labor.” The question then becomes, is this punishment as cruel as it sounds? Camus states, “Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd.” This is the notion the gods had in handing out their punishment- give a man the same tasks over and over again, and to see absolutely no success in those tasks. At first thought, such a discipline can be insufferable. However, Camus then states, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” In other words, a truly awful situation is only awful based on the person’s perspective on that situation. If an employee, who is constantly working on the same burden day in and day out, has the mindset the his tasks are torturing him and giving him constant pains and suffering, then that individual will go nowhere and become nothing but an embodiment of misery. If he accepts his fate, he will realize that, not only can it be worse, but also that he should be content with what he has. Sisyphus has the “joy” of trying to push the rock up to the very top of the hill. And it becomes a task he embraces. Thus, Camus concludes that “Sisyphus [is] happy.” For Sisyphus, this is not the worst punishment. The worst punishment for him, and for anyone else, would be to take away all the joys a person loves the most, and to do so in a violent manner. For Sisyphus, it would be to take away any sort of passion that he has, or that he can have. This includes nature, his wife, and his mentality when it comes to certain tasks. In a way, take away his soul. For what is a person without his/her soul? Take away their loves and their spirits, and they will have nothing left to fight for. Once their will is gone, this becomes the most torturous form of punishment anyone can go through.

  13. In the “Myth of Sisyphus” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Albert Camus tells the story of a man who is condemned to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” For defying the gods of the underworld and cheating death Sisyphus must live every day uselessly trying to push a boulder over a steep hill; and if successful must resume once again at the bottom. An eternal punishment is sickening itself due to the physical and mental toll it can inflict on a mortal. This would be the worst possible punishment because it is never ending, unlike death where it all ends at once. Although Sisyphus was attempting to cheat death, after continuous days of this physical and mental torture Sisyphus would then be asking for death. Death would be his way out of the loneliness, despair and physical agony of a lifetime of hopeless and vigor labor. To live a never ending unbearable torture to the body and mind is the worst possible punishment, even worse than universally feared death.

  14. In Albert Camus’s “The Myth Of Sisyphus,” Hades condemns Sisyphus to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor” by making Sisyphus push a rock up a mountain forever. Hades gave him this punishment, thinking this would be considered the worst punishment for him. However, Hades did not take into account that Sisyphus would get used to the physical labor. Thus, Sisyphus was able to cheat death. If Hades wanted to ensure Sisyphus would be in pain for eternity, he should have had a different form of torture for Sisyphus everyday, so that even the suspense of not knowing what will come next will torment him.

  15. The thought of punishment for ones own beliefs is heart wrenching. According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays written in 1945, the gods thought that the most dreadful punishment for Sisyphus was an eternity of “futile and hopeless labor” (pg. 75). In actuality, the severity of ones punishment varies from person to person. In this case, Sisyphus, the lord of the underworld had a hatred for death, so his damnation in the underworld had not really been damnation at all. He overcame the rock and was “superior to his fate”, this is easily defined by the way he pursued the rock once it rolled to the bottom of the hill, taking “heavy yet measured steps” (Camus, 76-77). As well, embracing his torture is what made him a hero, disabling his situation from taking control of his fate. Though it may seem that worse forms of torture, death tops the list because one can, over time, be superior to their fate during torture and not mind it at all. But, in death, there is no ability to be superior to ones fate because of the lack of consciousness.

  16. In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, by Albert Camus, Sisyphus is condemned to “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor” as punishment for cheating Hades. This may be the worse punishment imaginable to some; however, it wasn’t designed for Sisyphus. The “worst punishment” is not a universal one because human beings are not emotionally identical. Sisyphus’ one true desire was to be able to continue living, so he could continue appreciating his life. When Hades served his punishment, he did just that. It may not have been the idealistic life for Sisyphus, but it was life nonetheless.

  17. According to the literary works of Albert Camus in the mid 20th century, our dear Sisyphus has been condemned to what Camus describes as “an eternity of futile and hopeless labor.” By wiggling his way out of Hades’ depths, Sisyphus had crossed the line with the almighty deities. His task was to push a boulder up a steep incline, and had to remain doing so for unmeasurable aeons. If I imagine myself in his shoes, death would be a glorious thought day by day. Now if I would consider death as a more preferable option, then indeed, the gods bestowed upon him the worst task possible. What is life without liberty, I ask? Not much, I suppose. Sisyphus’ life is consumed completely by agony, a lack of freedom/options, and no sense of accomplishment or content. All Sisyphus knows is to push. Luckily, my prior knowledge enables me to digress; this is simply a metaphor for your average toiling worker. Man works and works, repeating the same task daily, and is often unconscious to the depressing, agonizing cycle he is immersed in. Consciousness itself is the sole means of conquering this arguable fate or pointless toil. Only an erudite being will reign supreme and achieve a accomplished level of content. That being said, this punishment from the gods also involves a psychological enigma, therefore I stand firm to my opinion. This is truly the worst possible punishment the gods could have conjured. Sisyphus is stuck in a rigorous loop, which I am not too confident he will overcome. It isn’t looking good for this decietful lad, but as Camus himself concludes, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

  18. The idea of endless and meaningless labor is quite unfathomable, but is how Sisyphus lives day to day. In Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” from the Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Sisyphus disregarded the gods’ idea of fate by chaining up death so humans could live forever. The gods were furious at Sisyphus and they condemned him to an eternity of punishment, “the gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight” (page 75). Although this form of endless labor is horrific many people believe that there could have been worse punishments. One of several is water boarding, which is currently a crime against humanity since it brings people to their last breath until their heads emerge from the water and the process is repeated over and over.
    Being content and accepting punishment may seem estranged but it is the best option. Although, Sisyphus is facing an “eternity of endless labor” (page 75), he has become content with his life of labor and has made peace with his fate. The myth of Sisyphus alludes to how life is absurd and the alternative to ending it, is embracing it.

    -S.O

  19. How likely that getting what one desires can turn out to be the punishment? According to Albert Camus in “The Myth of Sisyphus,” The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays written in 1945, Sisyphus, who demonstrated his scorn for Gods and even dared to cheat Death to live eternally, was condemned to eternal life filled with nothing but futile and hopeless labor. He was to roll a huge and heavy stone to the top of the mountain, only to watch it roll back and the resume his labor all over again. For a person, whose love for life was so strong that it made him commit his crime, a life, even eternal, but limited to the dull skyless space of the underworld instead of a sparkling sea and a curve of the gulf, might already be the most dreadful punishment. Indeed, Gods are laughing at Sisyphus: he continues to live, but his life is far from what he had imagined. Besides, he is predestined to achieve nothing, as his stone is so heavy that will inevitably roll back, making him descend with a heavy step and continue his eternal torture.
    However, it seems that Sisyphus’s punishment is not the eternity, not even the futile labor, though wasting time and strengths in vain might indeed make one desperate, but that “hour of consciousness” when he actually realizes whole wretchedness of his condition. As Camus states, Sisyphus is conscious, watching the stone roll down the hill; he is conscious on his way down to the torment of which he will know no end of. If Gods permitted, his mind would have long employed defense mechanisms and found a way to escape reality: it would dulled his consciousness or simply sunk Sisyphus into insanity. He remains conscious instead. He fully realizes that his rebellion did bring a reward of eternal life, but at the same time turned it into a never-ending torture.

  20. After doing manual labor, a worker should have achieved a goal or expect an end result. But to do the same task continuously in return for nothing is punishment. Albert Camus poses this point when wrote about a man condemned to a punishment involving “eternity of futile and hopeless labor” (74), in his book, “The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays”. The man, Sisyphus, is told by the gods he enraged, to endlessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain. This task cannot be accomplished due to the fact that the rock would return to the earth when it reaches the top. This sense of eternal labor however would not be the worst punishment. Sisyphus can continuously push a rock up a mountain and have no goal accomplished, but he is still subjected to thought. With thought, he can conjure his own goal in pushing the rock. For example, his goal can be to push the rock up the mountain just so he can see how fast it falls back down or he can find different ways to move the rock. Through this, the labor is no longer futile. Camus states “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory” (76). Through creating reasons to move the rock, Sisyphus can overlook the endless task as ways to quench his curiosity instead of looking at it as a punishment. To the gods, this may be a punishment, but to Sisyphus, this can be a life-long game. Each individual has his or her own perception on different things.

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