Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus: Meaning and Interpretation

Albert Camus's Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical writing based on a Greek Myth of Sisyphus. In this essay, the writer has allegorically presented Sisyphus as the symbol of humankind and his task as the symbol of absurd human existence. Before writing about the concept of absurdity, Camus has described about how Sisyphus was a highwayman, to rub people passing by the highway, but Homer says that he was a prudent. Even there are two causes about his punishment.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)

One myth says that Sisyphus revealed the secret abduction of Aegina by Zeus so that in anger Zeus punished him to the underworld where he had to roll up the rock from bottom to the top of the hill. Another Myth says that Sisyphus ordered his wife to throw his dead body in a public place but not to bury it. After death, he was awaken in the hell, he got angry with his wife & decided to go back to the earth to punish his wife. After many requests, Pluto gave chance to go to earth and come to hell as soon as possible. Sisyphus was enchanted by the shining beauty of the earth so he forget everything.

Even though Pluto sent many messengers before sending Mercury, who seized him on his throat and brought him back to hell. In anger, Pluto gave Sisyphus the meaningless punishment of rolling up the rock from the bottom to the top of the hill. Myth of Sisyphus is presented as a meditation on the theme of suicide. Camus has brought the concept of absurdity, which is the essence of human existence. The philosophy of absurdity was developed as a branch of existentialist philosophy, which considers life as meaningless useless and fruitless nihilistic existence. Existentialism suggests that the problematic life has only the solution, which is suicide. But, Albert Camus propounded the new concept of absurdism and rejected that suicide is not the solution but the sin so it is not the solution of problematic life. He suggests that absurd life should be taken as a challenge and it should be continued. So absurd philosophy avoids that suicide is not the theme of life and to interpret that idea he has taken the myth of Sisyphus as an allegory.

Presenting the Myth of Sisyphus as an allegory Camus attempts to justify that life is meaningless absurd and fruitless but it should be taken as a challenge. As an allegory, Sisyphus symbolizes all humankind and what Sisyphus does is the symbol of what we do every day in our life, Camus describes that Sisyphus is on the bottom of the hill and he has to push the heavy rock to the top of the hill. Sisyphus recollects all the physical strength in his arms and giving the complete physical labour he pushes up the rock. It takes a long time to roll the rock up to the top of the hill but with in a second it rolls down and Sisyphus has to repeat again and again. He has to come down, the period of decent. At that time, Camus says that his attention is fixed to Sisyphus. He says that poor Sisyphus has to roll up the rock repeatedly but he does not achieve anything. Through the action of Sisyphus, we are reflected because our life and our day-to-day activities are also meaningless like Sisyphus.

But, Camus says that Sisyphus is happy and he should be happy because he has accepted the punishment given to him. When he is on the bottom, he has a hope that he will reach on the top. Even for a second he is on the top of the hill and looks up and smiles. It is his movement of happiness and scorn to the fate maker. He also suggests us that we should be hopeful of getting happiness but happiness is always momentary. He says that we should try to make our own fate and should try to make our own fate and should hate the fate maker. Therefore, he says that there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn. He even says that there is no sun without shadow or happiness and absurdity are the two sons of the same mother earth. What he means is that, without facing the absurdity, we cannot get happiness but it is not necessary that happiness must come after absurdity. We should hope but should not be sure of happiness because it is momentary. As there is shadow after the light there is absurdity with happiness, so happiness and absurdity go together like the two sons of the same mother earth.

He also brings the allusion of Oedipus and says that in spite of suffering, Oedipus says all is well. Oedipus unknowingly murders his father and sleeps with his mother, and then he makes him self-blind because he knows that he is victimized by fate. But, still he says all is well, which means he accepts suffering in life like Sisyphus and Oedipus we should also accept life and try to make our own fate without thinking of suicide which is the suggestion of the writer in this essay.