Sisyphus, Atlas, and I–tragic heros indeed.

“It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that 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 each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.”

Excerpted from The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus (trans. Justin O’Brien)

While I agree with the initial analysis of the situation, I do not agree with Camus’s conclusions that “The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory” and “There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.”

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3 Responses to “Sisyphus, Atlas, and I–tragic heros indeed.”

  1. satads says:

    It has to make sense because he realizes why he’s rolling the rock up the hill just before the rock rolls down the hill, so when he realizes why he’s rolling the rock up the hill it’s like he’s getting one over on Zeus. Kind of like “Haha I win because I know why I’m doing this–I know there is a reason behind all of this.”
    I don’t know what to say about the fate/scorn thing. That probably just has something to do with an individual’s self-assurnace.
    Does that make sense. It probably doesn’t because I don’t have much experience with that myth…mostly just what I learned in high school mythology class and what I saw on the Red Bull commercial. Neither do I usually analyze such things as these.

    • jnshk says:

      thanks for your response. that actually helps me understand it better. i am still not entirely sure that i agree, but i at least understand it more thoroughly.

  2. straylight13 says:

    Wow! First time I’ve ever encountered another Camus reader and no less reading an essay I know. I think it is true that Sisyphus conquers through his scorn. He cannot end his torment but the gods aren’t trying to torture him physically. It was his will they desired to crush and in this aspect they failed utterly. I think that’s what Camus means by “fate… surmounted by scorn.” It’s tragically beautiful really and shows one of existentialism’s key ideas that man creates his own destiny, even if only through the continuation of his defiance.