This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Myth of Sisyphus, was primarily focused on existentialist philosophy and the application of
such to contemporary society. Existentialism is often defined as the emphasis on concrete
indiidual existence and, conse!uently, on sub"ectiity, indiidual freedom, and choice. #n both
wor$s, Albert Camus% exhibition principally focuses upon the application of free will and morality of
existentialism, the legitimate instinctie spontaneous reactions of humans, as well as the polemic
and application of existentialist ethics and alues pertaining to modern era society.
Man is an ambiguous, dubious, perplexing creature -- man is condemned to be free--he has to
act,but there is no real or true creed to tell him how to act. &or the existentialist, it is in the nature
of human consciousness itself to be free -- to be free to create and recreate it self at will. 'efined
only by our acts we are free to assign alues to our actions, to gie our lies meaning. The
existentialist does not tell us what to beliee or how to act. To be directed from outside is to be
guilty of bad faith. The only faith is indiidualistic -- we must be genuine to ourseles. (e are
compelled to ma$e choices, and we need to ma$e them with absolute coniction. Existence
preceeds essence. )The Stranger,) by world renown author Albert Camus analy*es the
existentialist+s role in a society that is incapable of understanding or tolerating nonconformity,
where he created a character who re"ected established morality, but who could neer escape
society+s eminently imposing and restrictie alue system.
Existentialists turn to humanity itself to find modernistic alues. They recogni*e the nihilistic
tendencies of bourgeois ciili*ation, but they are not themseles nihilists. They maintain a faith in
humanity -- a faith that leads them to the belief that only man can understand and sole the
problems of man$ind. Existentialism drew on a myriad of earlier ideas, and one of its enduring
strengths was that it manages to absorb nearly two centuries of European thought into one
structure. #t is a perennial philosophy. . As Sartre once wrote, )existentialism is an attempt to draw
all the conse!uences from a consistent atheist position.)
,ne can suggest that instinct may be learned, or did not exist at conception, and another may
conclude that indiiduals are born with instinct and use it inoluntarily. #n both wor$s of literature,
Albert Camus cleerly includes the opinion that instinct is a natural unaoidable reaction to
sudden surprise situations. Mersualt, the primary character in The Stranger, is perceied to react
instinctiely, when he shoots the other man. Albert Camus is intentionally illustrating the horrifying
situation to coney to the carefully obsering reader that instinct exists and has existed since any
'uring the passing of these two influential pieces of literature, Albert Camus uni!uely intertwines
seeral ubi!uitous uniersal and existentialist beliefs, themes and alues. -oth masterpieces
include Camus% personal opinion of how human behaior is, and how existentialism applies to it.
The focus primarily conerges on free will and morality, common human behaior and ethics, as
well as inoluntary and ineasible human instinct, and how they apply to contemporary society.
)#t happens that the stage sets collapse. .ising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory,
meal, streetcar, four hours of wor$, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday (ednesday Thursday
&riday and Saturday according to the same rhythm - this path is easily followed most of the time.
-ut one day the )why) arises and eerything begins in that weariness tinged with ama*ement.
)-egins) - this is important. (eariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at
the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consiousness and proo$es what follows. (hat
follows is the gradual return into the chain or it is the definitie awa$ening. At the end of the
awa$ening comes, in time, the conse!uence/ suicide or recoery. #n itself weariness has
something sic$ening about it. 0ere, # must conclude that it is good. &or eerything begins with
consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it. There is nothing original about
these remar$s. -ut they are obious1 that is enough for a while, during a s$etchy reconnaissance
in the origins of the absurd. Mere )anxiety,) as 0eidegger says, is at the source of eerything.)
-Albert Camus An Absurd .easoning
#+e been feeling li$e dropping out of my 2h' program lately. # wo$e up about two wee$s ago
!uestioning what the hell # was doing. 0ere # am, 34 years old, still in school after about 35 years.
#+m constantly as$ed the !uestion/ So... what do you plan to do with your degree6 And #+e always
been content to answer, )(ho $nows...)
So why is it that it always happens on Monday that the world collapses6 # always had the
tendency to lay blame on Sunday+s general lac$ of sleep. #t seemed that # stayed up later than
usual on Saturday, slept in really late on Sunday, and then # neer made it to bed at a decent hour
Sunday night, ma$ing Monday hellishly tiring. Today Camus helped me to figure out what it really
is/ Monday suc$s because the wee$end was fun. All wee$end long # did the things that # wanted
to do. # did the things that made me happy. (hen returning to )real life), the !uestion must be
as$ed/ (hy is it that # don+t do the things that ma$e me happy eery day6 0ence is the !uestion
#t is only in answering this !uestion that we can feel good about our decisions. #f there is no
answer, then only suicide is left. 7ot necessarily physical, literal suicide, which is actually Camus+
topic, but perhaps mental suicide, emotional suicide. -y resigning to lie a life that you cannot
defend, you hae therefore gien in. 8ou+e decided that the pursuit of happiness is pointless, that
it is in fact easier to lie in numbness or misery. # wholeheartedly disagree with this notion. #t has
often been my contention that it would ma$e more sense to wor$ at Mc'onalds ma$ing minimum
wage in order to hae the time to engage in more meaningful pursuits than to ma$e loads of
money at an unfulfilling "ob that has become a career. # hae decided to ma$e academia my
career at the moment. 2erhaps someday # will switch fields, but as of today, getting up Monday
morning to go to class is my career. #t is therefore necessary for me to !uestion this choice.
# am not naie, and # do beliee that fre!uently we must suffer to be truly happy. This is where #
am/ suffering for the end cause. # $now there will be an end, and at the end is a future full of
summer acations, winter brea$s, fresh faces... (hy6 -ecause it is what # truly loe, and what #
The gun is good. The penis is eil. --- the 2lague
A little historical bac$ground
Albert Camus began writing this noel in Chambon-sur-<ignon, a mountainous illage in central
&rance, while recoering from a bout of Tuberculosis in 5=>3. After being inoled in the
resistance to the ?erman occupation of &rance in ((##, he completed and published it in 5=>>.
The noel is often considered an allegory for &rance under occupation, and # can see why this
could be the case. 0e was obiously !uite inoled in the war, being the editor of Combat, an
influential newspaper, and he wrote the boo$ mostly during that time. <i$e the war, the plague
comes as an un$nown force into the town, giing the people little means of fighting bac$ and
forcing them to simply submit to it. The isolation of the city and the feeling of distance from the
outside world that comes with !uarantine is an element that is probably ery similar to the effects
of occupation on the &rench people.
Camus+ own isolation and boredom while recoering from Tuberculosis was probably ery
influential on the noel as well, since he was to experience many of the inconeniences and
discomforts that the plague brought to the town. Sitting around with nothing to do in the stifling
heat, being denied the freedom of the ocean and away from his beloed home of Algiers, the
noel seems !uite similar to his own experience of disease. Also, the ?erman occupation began
while he was in Chambon-sur-<ignon, and so he was cut off from his wife and his mother, who
were in Algeria, until the end of the occupation. Separation from loed ones is a ery prominent
theme in the boo$, and it seems clear that this stems from Camus+ own feelings of separation at
the time of the boo$+s writing.
There was neer a plague of such si*e in ,ran during the 3@th century, or at any other $nown
time. There was an outbrea$ in 5=>>, around the time that the boo$ was published, but Camus
had already been writing it for seeral years beforehand, and anyway it $illed less people in total
than the fictional plague did eery day. -y my hugely inaccurate estimates, the noel+s plague
would hae $illed somewhere between 54,@@@ and 3@,@@@ people, in a town of approximately
A@@,@@@. Apparently, Camus himself !uite disli$ed ,ran.
The noel is diided into fie parts, each being about a stage in the progression of the plague/
The boo$ opens with a !uote of 'aniel 'efoe/ )#t is as reasonable to represent one $ind of
imprisonment by another, as it is to represent anything that exists by that which exists not.) 2art 5
introduces the town and the main characters, and sees the plague appear as huge numbers of
rats begin to come into the streets, dying right in the open. (hen disposing of the thousands
starts to become a real problem, they suddenly disappear, and eeryone thin$s little of it. Then
the first human cases appear, the death toll rises, the prefecture declares a state of plague, and
the town is closed.
The plague worsens and ta$es hold, the daily death toll steadily rises and the people steadily
adapt to their new situation. 'r. .ieux says that )soon, there will only be mad people in our town,)
but he is wrong. Some people brea$ out and clash with the guards at the town+s gates, some
ma$e attempts to escape, but mostly people go on, with their lies undeniably different but
fundamentally the same. They+re "ust more focused on ma$ing it to tomorrow, rather than ma$ing
it to next year. The one person who seems glad of the plague is Cottard, since the town+s
preoccupation with the plague $eeps him safe from arrest for his former wrongdoings, whateer
The shortest part of the boo$, it is something of a chec$ list of information being gien out by the
narrator, concerning the progress of the plague and the steps that town+s administration ta$e to
resist it. The funeral homes are completely inade!uate for the number of dead that must be
buried each day, and funerals go from grand eents of )pomp and circumstance) to mass
cremations performed with huge incinerating oens that gie off a foul apour that drifts through
the districts, and eentually to mass graes with piles of bubbling !uic$lime at the bottom. As for
the liing townspeople, by this point they do not feel the plague+s presence as they did before, it is
"ust another part of their daily lies. Their habits change in strange ways1 they fill the cinemas
eery night, despite there being no new films, they disappear from the streets almost entirely, and
they seem to lie as though under a burden that $eeps them from feeling ery much at all.
'r. .ieux and his colleagues perseere "ust as the plague does, but they are fighting against an
enemy that they cannot hope to defeat. They hae no means of effectie treatment, they can only
!uarantine the ictims and lance their swollen lymph nodes, watching as they die a lonely and
painful death. Eeryone stops bothering with the statistics, whether a hundred or a thousand die
in a day doesn+t affect them when they are doing all that they can. A serum is belatedly produced
for the ictims, but its efficacy is inconsistent and gies the health teams no respite from the
uncertainty that comes with all of their actions. Then, from no actions ta$en by anyone
concerned, the plague suddenly goes into decline.
The townspeople ta$e the news of the decline of the disease with resere, not wanting to
celebrate too early, but oer "ust a few wee$s the number of new cases falls to *ero. The people
slowly go bac$ to their lies, but .ieux $nows that the plague can lie dormant for years, hiding in
clothing, boo$s and whateer else, and that the threat of death is neer gone.
A few themes
-raery and cowardice are ma"or themes in the boo$. Camus seems not to beliee in heroes, or
at least to disli$e them. There are no grand acts of braery in The 2lague, only stoic persistence.
The characters that seems the braest are the ones that go on "ust as they did before the plague
arried, such as 'r. .ieux and Bean Tarrou, and they do so more out of a sense of obligation than
anything else. (hen people come together in the health teams to resist, it is said only that )it was
no great merit on the part of those who dedicated themseles to the health teams, because they
$new that it was the only thing to be done and not doing it would hae been incredible at the
time.) 0eroism does not exist when faced with such a foe as the plague, only a lac$ of cowardice
and the will to do what is right for people. As Tarrou says, one must only )re"ect eerything that,
directly or indirectly, ma$es people die or "ustifies others in ma$ing them die.) The characters who
are cowardly are the ones who do nothing to help anyone, without doing anything to harm them
either. Cottard, who is glad of the plague for his own reasons, seems more malicious than anyone
because he sits on the sidelines and refuses to fight.
Camus also seems to say that against death there is no ictory, for een the end of the plague is
not due to the actions of anyone, but simply that the plague disappears as it came, without
reason or motie. Any ictory of life is a hollow ictory, because it is accompanied by a hundred
defeats at the hands of death. Cnowing this, .ieux and the others still resist death when they can,
and this is their braery.
There is an allusion to his earlier noel, The ,utsider, in part one of the boo$, where a character
tells of a conersation he oerheard about a young man who shot an Arab on a beach. This
seems a little unnecessary, li$e Camus is doing a little literary product placement, but it shows
that this noel is an extension of the preious, that they are based on the same core ideas. There
seem to be many similarities between The 2lague and The ,utsider/ the short, minimalist
dialogue1 the connection between the people and the enironment in which they find themseles,
as though the people and the town are one1 the introerted main character, who seems to be
somehow separate from the people around him1 the morbid atmosphere and emphasis of death
as a main feature of life. 'r. .ieux and Meursault seem ery similar to me, in that they both go
about life as though they are not particularly inoled in it, and they are merely obsering the
spectacle of the world and its inhabitants. .eading The ,utsider definitely helps one read The
2lague, because it presents Camus+ ideas about life and death much more explicitly, and with far
less to obscure them.
(hat # thin$
The 2lague is a noel about death, primarily, and # thin$ that it is about more than the war. My
ta$e on it is that it is about how people react when the threat of death is brought forward and
made immediate. Some are liberated by the uncertainty of tomorrow, others become terribly
depressed and see$ release, and some lie life "ust as normal. This is really how people should
act all of the time, since death is always a threat, but this is the point, # thin$. The weight of the
plague upon the town is no different from that which is eerywhere, always, but we ignore it, or
don+t een ac$nowledge that it is there. This is where Camus+ notions of the )absurd) come in1
there is no $nowing when death will come, and our lies are thus entirely ruled by chance and
causes that are always left un$nown to us1 the effect of the plague is to ma$e these truths clear to
the townspeople. The ictims of the plague are determined completely by the caprice of an
inisible force, without reason or "ustice, and there is little that anyone can do to resist.
# thin$ the boo$ is basically saying that we are blowing in the wind, regardless of whether we
realise it or not, so perhaps it is better not to understand that death could be around any corner or
in any home. (ithout the plague, the people do not thin$ about death ery much, and are much
happier for it, so perhaps it is best "ust to lie. This is one of the !uestions that # thin$ Camus
wants us to as$ ourseles1 whether it is useful to be aware of death+s approach, whether life is
determined by how it ends. Camus doesn+t answer this !uestion for us, and # thin$ that is what
ma$es him a good philosopher, regardless of how he felt about being labeled as one.
There were a few things that # didn+t li$e about this noel. All in all it was excellent, but it was by
no means perfect. &irstly, for a boo$ that is essentially about death, no proper characters die until
about three !uarters of the way through, so the reader is only gien an indirect sense of the
plague+s presence. Camus labours oer the point of the oppressie gloom that the plague casts
oer the town, but 553 strangers dying one day is not as potent as the death of someone you
$now. The benefit of this is that when a character that we care about dies, we hae not yet been
desensitised as the townspeople hae, and can feel the full effect of it, but the plague does not
weigh as heaily on the reader+s mind as # thin$ it should.
Secondly, he tends to go on a bit too much about certain things, such as the separation of certain
townspeople from loed ones who are outside ,ran. This ma$es sense, because when the
narrator+s identity is reealed we find that he is someone who was separated so, but it still is a
little tiresome. The number of people who are experiencing such separation must be !uite small,
proportionally, but it is gien as the worst of the plague+s punishments, which can hardly be true.
#t+s a small, irritating thing.
&inally, while Camus $eeps the dialogue succinct and realistic throughout the whole story, at one
point in part > he brea$s out, with Bean Tarrou giing a seen-page uninterrupted monologue
about his personal history and philosophy. Eerything was going so well until then, all of the
characters were subtle and a little mysterious, there were tantalising glimpses of their inner
seles in the dialogue, but then it+s all out the window when Camus decides to ma$e his own
alues abundantly clear. 2erhaps # am being elitist here, thin$ing that #+m an intellectual because #
read literature and thin$ # understand it, but # prefer when boo$s can show what they mean
without saying it.
The !uote at the bottom of bea$+s writeup is the beginning of the boo$ that Boseph ?rand hopes
to write, but he neer ma$es it past that first sentence. 0e spends hours ad"usting it and
pondering the best way to arrange it, so as to ma$e the perfect opening to a boo$ that will really
impress the publishers.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.