My Existentialism

Discuss a book or academic subject which has aroused your interest in the past year.


My French teacher, a die-hard fan of existentialism, assigned Camus' L'etranger last year. I went into the book apprehensively, but came out enthralled. It was not the story linea man condemned for refusing to live by society's rules--nor the dark existentialist mantra that "life is meaningless" which left such an impression on me, but instead the lighter message which I found hidden between the lines: the notion that one should rejoice in life for life itself. Although Camus did believe that life is without meaning, he also stressed the importance of life's redeeming qualities (such as friendship and the beauty of nature) as the things which make happiness possible and life worth living.

My teacher drew a useful analogy to explain Camus' philosophy on enjoying life: he compared Meursault, the main character in L'etranger, to Sisyphus in Jean-Paul Sartre's essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. Sartre's essay, which relates the "revolt" of a man who suffers from a pointless existence, parallels the struggles of Meursault and, accordingly, all of humankind. It is a twist on the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the mortal who displeased the gods and as a consequence was condemned to eternally roll...

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