English Language and Composition ap 16 October 2010

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Song, Deborah

Mr. Gerdes

English Language and Composition AP

16 October 2010

Summary of The Myth of Sisyphus

Before the death Sisyphus told his wife that when he was gone she was not to offer the usual sacrifice to the dead. Sisyphus' soul couldn’t enter the underworld and was wandering about. Gods took pity on him an allowed him to go back to the upper world for three days to punish his wife. As after the three days Sisyphus didn't come back the gods have forgotten about him and he was living quietly trying not to be noticed by them. Not before many years he was remembered and taken to Hades. Sisyphus was sentenced to eternal rolling a big stone up a steep hill; but before it reached the top of the hill the stone always rolled down, and Sisyphus had to begin all over again. As a result of this, pointless, interminable activities are described as Sisyphean.

Rhetorical Strategies Used in The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus' essay "The Myth of Sisyphus" uses allusion, analogy, ethical appeal, juxtaposition, and imagery. He uses allusion. He obviously alludes to the Greek myth of Sisyphus, as well as Oedipus and Dostoevsky's Kirolv as other absurd heroes by saying, “Then a tremendous remark rings out: "Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well." Sophocles' Edipus, like Dostoevsky's Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism.” He uses analogy. He compares Sisyphus to the absurd hero, the rock to work, and the gods to deterministic external forces which limit freedom. He uses Ethos. He uses moral argument and counterargument to show how Sisyphus loves life, hates death, and scorns the gods, thereby getting victory over his fate and punishment. He uses Juxtaposition. He contrasts man versus god, freedom versus punishment, life versus punishment, sun and water versus Hades.  All of his juxtaposed imagery supports life over death and freedom over punishment. He uses imagery. He uses natural, visual imagery to create an emotional response for the reader: "mountain," "sun," "water"-- all of which affirm life on earth instead of death and suffering.

Agreement or Disagreement on Albert Camus’s Idea

The story of Sisyphus is from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was created by the gods to forever rolling a rock up a mountain and watching it roll back down. Camus saw in Sisyphus’s punishment a metaphor for the human condition, because what the gods did to Sisyphus is what life has done to all of us. Every one of us is metaphorically rolling their own rock up a hill only to watch it fall back down. Then starting over, and in the end we accomplish nothing lasting or ultimately meaningful. This absurdity has several dimensions, and we can see one powerful denial of the injustice and immorality of the universe in religion. We all want to be rewarded for our good and to see at least others punished for their evil, but the universe doesn’t care. Religion cannot deliver justice in this world, and so they all promise something that came to our final judgment after death, for sin or karma, and they tell us that the justice of the universe is merely hidden waiting in some hypothetical afterlife, perhaps a heaven or reincarnation. Whether God exists or not this absurdity is still a problem. God, if he exists, would actually make the problem worse (as the bible merely acknowledges itself in books like Job and Ecclesiastes). The problem of evil is a perfect example of that. So, as Camus said, even if there were a God it would not matter, and Camus was, of course, an atheist.


Finucane, Kevin. "Myth of Sisyphus." University. CapStone University, n.d. Web. 16 Oct 2010. .

Feldberg, Stanley. "THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS." Brandeis. Brandeis University, November 30, 1998 . Web. 17 Oct 2010. .

Simon, Elliott. "The Myth of Sisyphus: Renaissance Theories of Human Perfectibility." FDU. Fairleigh Dickinson University, 14 Sep 2008. Web. 17 Oct 2010. .

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