Myth of Sisyphus

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Notes on “Myth of Sisyphus” an essay by Albert Camus
Summary of Sisyphus’s life leading to punishment: Sisyphus was a mortal who made his wife promise to leave his body unburied in the public square. Even though this would be a very horrible condition be left in, he demanded it in order to test her love through her obedience. When he ‘awoke’ in the underworld to find that his wife had actually obeyed him, he was angry at the disrespect paid to his dead body and was given permission by the gods to return to earth in order to confront her. However, he liked being back on Earth so much that he did not return to the underworld when he was supposed to, so the gods had to send Mercury to drag him back and give him his punishment of pushing the stone of the mountain.

Reference to Edipus: Camus refers to Oedipus, the man who was sent down the river by his parents to avoid fulfilling a prophecy that said he would kill his own father and marry his mother. It did not work: he ended up killing his father and marrying his mother because he did not know who they were. When he found out, he gouged out his own eyes to blind himself. His daughter, Antigone, then takes care of him until his death.
Connections to The Stranger: Annotate the following passages: note vocabulary and summarize the key ideas. Explain how each of the following passages relates to The Stranger. Then, find a passage from the novel that could be used to support your point. (Write a page number and the first few words of the specific passage.)

Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary. Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar... (pg. 1, 3rd paragraph)


I see a man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At these moments …he is superior to his fate. (pg. 2, 2nd paragraph)


If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy.

(pg. 2, 4th paragraph)


When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy arises in a man’s heart: this is the rock’s victory… (pg. 2, 4th paragraph)


But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. (pg. 2, 4th paragraph)


Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well. (pg. 2, 5th paragraph)


It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering. It makes fate a human matter, which must be settled among men. (pg. 3, 1st paragraph)


His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates is torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to it’s silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. (pg. 3, 2nd paragraph)

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