Sisyphus was given a punishment by the gods, to push a rock
up a hill, only to have it fall down on him again. Mersault
is a person accused of murder who has spent over a year in
jail. What both these characters have come to realize is
that they are forced to live in these situations created by
the gods, therefore they might as well enjoy or get used to
Mersault is forced to live in a cell, without his
cigarettes, and with limited visitation rights. When this
happens, Mersault recalls what his mother told him. She
said, "One gets used to everything." When Mersault realizes
he is not going to get out of jail, he becomes indifferent,
just like he always does, and accepts his situation,
searching for any positive aspects to his incarceration. He
defies punishment by accepting his situation and enjoying
himself in jail. Therefore, the whole point of Mersault
going to jail is obliterated. When Mersault is condemned to
death, he does not act surprised, although he wishes he did
not have to die. After a while he also accepts that. It
does not matter to him that he is dying, so long as he is
dying for a purpose.
Sisyphus is damned for eternity to roll a rock up a hill.
If he were to view his fate decreed upon him as punishment,
for the rest of forever, then he would only sicken an
already terminally ill situation (speaking metaphorically
of course). Sisyphus starts to find meaning in his work,
starts to enjoy his work, almost to take pride in his work,
like a true laborer.
Mersault is like Sysiphus, in many ways. The only real
notable difference is that Sisyphus has been punished by
the gods, whereas Mersault does not believe in god.
Mersault is indifferent to his situation, as is Sisyphus,
as apparent from Camus' description. Mersault and Sisyphus
both expressed a love for life (Mersault's heart jumped at
the idea of being pardoned, Sisyphus is being "punished"
due to his desire to stay in the real world). And most
importantly, Mersault and Sisyphus both defy their
detractors. They overcome their rulers. Mersault does not
do it to prove anything to anybody. He just does it because
it would be pointless to act any other way. With Sisyphus
he can hold his head higher than the gods now, his work has
ceased to be punishment, the gods have lost, he has won.
For Mersault and Sisyphus to overcome their struggles, they
had to be placed in one. Their background for reaching
their struggle is what makes them unique. Recalling such
people with different philosophies, like the Denver Nuggets
most explosive player Mahmoud-Abdul Rauf, who believes in
not standing up for something he does not believe in, he
has shown that by standing up for a different philosophy
than most people believe in can lead to rejection and
tragedy. What was special about Mersault was where his
priorities lay, which made him think different from
everybody else, therefore enabling the world to brand him.
Mersault is the anti-Christ because he smoked and drank
coffee at his mother's funeral. Sisyphus was not regarded
by a society as a vile person, but he was not accepted, he
did not have interaction with them. These odd situations
placed them both in struggles for their un-redeemable acts.
Mersault converses with the warden to discover that "prison
deprives one of freedom." He understands that incarceration
is punishment, just as Sisyphus did. They both move on to
view their positions from a different perspective. Sisyphus
moves from his position of sadness, to a position of
happiness, mainly, in my view, to defy the gods, therefore
it is not true happiness just defiance. He "...obeys fate
without knowing it," as Oedipus did. Similarly Mersault
accepts his imprisonment with the same kind of indifference
that he takes everything else. Mersault, in fact, makes his
own freedom by hanging on to his memories, he overcomes
imprisonment, because he really is not imprisoned anymore.
Mersault can be considered a real world interpretation of
Sisyphus, only a lot different and emotionless. Mersault
has never really expressed a desire for anything, whereas
Sisyphus' biggest desire was that to escape his bounds of
human mortality and became an immortal human. Both the
punishments are what would be considered just in our
society's thinking, although viewing the individuals both
the verdicts seem harsh and horrid. Overall, both these
individuals accomplish a necessary goal that defies
pressures put upon them, and that is their greatness.
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