Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Rich, The Poor, and The Rock

Ostensively, as Camus asserts, Sisyphus leads a tragic life in the underworld, as he is subject to never-ending torture. However, Camus argues that Sisyphus’ fate is truly the opposite; the latter is able to find contentment in the idea that his life holds no value past the fact that he exists. His life becomes nothing more than pushing a rock up a hill eternally, and thus he becomes the rock. He is unfeeling and unburdened by any constructions of life meaning he may have had in his living existence.

However, Camus’ analysis of Sisyphus’ condition applies to all human beings. Perhaps not exactly what Camus was arguing but still relevant, humans of higher status may have a shorter hill to push the rock. Their existences are heavily valued with material things. Thus, the superficiality of their existences translates to a shorter hill to push their rock. It seems those higher in status are more aware of the tragedy of their truly empty lives, and yet they create a reputation for themselves that they then feel pressure to uphold. Thus, they are more willing or perhaps forced to push the rock up the short hill continuously because they can’t imagine their existence without that rock, symbolizing every part of their self-worth or reason for existing in the torture chamber.

The opposite is true for those in the working class; upheld by the utmost hope in escaping their situations, those that work their days away continually push their rocks further and further up the hills, only to have their realities come crashing back down. Those who work the hardest, in the most laborious ways, tend to earn the least, literally and metaphorically. To an outsider, they appear the least fulfilled members of society, existing only to scrape by. This is a pessimistic theory and perhaps strips them of their true worth. But if the existentialist argument stands, if the working class is wholly aware of the fact that their situations are unlikely to change and yet they continue to live each day hoping they will, they are the most unhappy people, living truly tragic lives. I'm not sure I agree with this idea, which leads me to criticize the idea of existentialism and life fulfillment.


  1. I this is analysis is very interesting. I would have interpreted it in the reverse, as the rich holding onto social constructs even stronger because of its role in establishing power hierarchies, but also your interpretation of them being more aware of their superficiality makes complete sense. I guess my question to you is does it matter? Does it matter which hill is taller or shorter, because essentially, they are both destined to an eternity of repetition, are they not?

  2. I like how you manipulate and specify the hill itself. The difference between the short and tall hill is a a useful metaphor for describing different kinds of people in this world. I agree with what you said about material dependence and self awareness of "punishment" whether that be in the form of labor or something else. The only thing I would question is whether middle class workers are truly the most miserable. I have learned that working for achievements, no matter how small, is better than being handed wealth and not having to work for accomplishments.