Thursday, October 11, 2018

Camus' Myth of Sisyphus in High School

In Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus, he evaluates the punishment Sisyphus endures for eternity. The punishment is to push a rock up to the top of a hill, knowing every time he does it will just fall back down again. While many consider this to be punishment because he hopes that it will work and it never does, this is not truly creating a life with no meaning or purpose, which was what the gods intended. Camus argues that this isn’t the true punishment because he would have a purpose when he was pushing the rock up the hill, thinking it would work every time. The true punishment is knowing that it won’t work, and continuing to have to push the rock knowing it won’t work. This is the life without meaning that the gods condemned him to. Sisyphus attempts to avoid this “pain” by dreaming about earth and clinging onto memories of what he can’t have. This makes him sad and allows him to be controlled by his inevitable fate.

However, Camus argues that Sisyphus is able to overcome this punishment despite knowing that pushing the rock up the hill will never work. Once Sisyphus can accept that he will never go back to earth or have a perfect life, he can let go. He doesn’t have to chase after these impossible dreams, he can just exist.

I feel that today, especially as a highschooler, students are convinced they can achieve the American Dream by following the path society encourages: getting good grades in high school so you can go to a good college so you can get a good job and a good retirement plan… by the time you can finally look back at what you’ve done and be satisfied and finally enjoy life, you’re 80 years old. Realistically, people fight so hard to follow this path that may not even work out for them. The randomness, or absurdity, of life can push you off your path so easily; who knows when the next recession, familial crisis, or natural disaster will strike?

Many high school students need to appreciate or at least comprehend Camus’ ideas of the absurdity of life. Having lived such a short time, it’s difficult for many to cope with accidents they cause that impact their lives, let alone mistakes or accidents that are purely caused by the randomness of life that impact their lives. Understanding such concepts can help many in emotionally overwhelming times take a step back and maintain their sanity.

No matter how hard you work, nothing is guaranteed, so per Camus’ theories, it is better to just appreciate the life you have now than to keep striving to what you’ll never get (just as Sisyphus stops longing the real world he can never go back to).


  1. I 100% agree, the "American Dream" is illusionary. Society almost hypnotizes us into thinking if we do it everything will workout and we will be happy, but we never really know what the American Dream is. It may not work, and it may not even make us happy. I love your take Erin, good job!

  2. Interesting application, Erin! I agree that we get so wrapped up in our lives, and especially the future, that we forget to live in the moment. Technology certainly doesn't aid us in appreciating the "little things in life" either.

  3. You're speaking to something that I think is very profound- ambition begets ambition begets ambition, but when do we slow down and enjoy? The "path" you talk about never focuses on enjoying the present: it always demands that we're looking to the future. People say the journey is more important than the destination, but the "American Dream" path blinds us from our own journies.

  4. I think we all have a deep connection to this one. I often have to step back and remind myself that no GPA or test score can match the experiences one was. I feel like we are often told to stop and smell the roses, but the roses are locked in a vault ten feet underground with an alligator infested moat around it. However, learning to find other roses is a skill that I think we all could benefit from.