Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus is not simply a re-telling of the myth itself, but also an interpretation of the way in which the myth can be related to the life of humanity in general, and in particular to one's understanding and acceptance of the futility of life, which he does not consider to be negative per se. He looks at the nature of Sisyphus' character, the way in which he challenged and defied the gods, and the punishment he received as a result. However, he does not look at Sisyphus' fate as something which defines the gods as victorious and Sisyphus as subjugated to their will, primarily because of the way in which Sisyphus himself perceives his condition.
He begins by giving a brief account of the life of Sisyphus and the reasons why he was punished by the gods, which delineates the events, and the particular elements of Sisyphus' character, which have combined to bring him to his current fate, undergoing an endless punishment in the underworld. He has, during his life, been independent and passionate, issuing challenges to the gods and defying them on a number of occasions, which has led to their eventual enactment of his punishment.
For example, on finding himself in the underworld as a result, ironically, of his wife's obeying his last instructions, he requests that he be allowed to return to the world of the living in order to chastise her. However, once safely away from the underworld, he refuses to return despite `recalls, signs of anger and warnings'. It is evident that he is an intelligent and forceful individual, who realises that his defiance of the gods cannot continue forever, but he is prepa...
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...ard to an entire series of lifetimes, they would all have the same quality of hard work and futility.
Camus concludes, however, that like Oedipus, Sisyphus must feel that `all is well'. He has dictated his own fate, he has overcome the gods even in the throes of his punishment, and his entire existence is now focused on an exercise which, by its very futility, has become an end in itself and a demonstration of his own independence of awareness and consciousness. This is, he asserts, the only successful way of perceiving the human condition: to pass through the elements of unconscious absurdity, conscious tragedy and conscious absurdity, and finally arrive at the point where one understands that despite the punishments handed out by the gods, one can still retain the mastery of one's own fate, even while suffering those punishments.
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