The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway the Absurdist College

Hemingway’s beliefs are generally understood to be existential. This is a largely accurate generalization, but Hemingway’s writings lean toward a more pessimistic view of existentialism than that of his peers. His novels and short stories do not merely emphasize the need for individual decisions regarding purpose and personal development; instead he questions their existence outright. Hemingway’s stories do not arrive at optimistic conclusions in which the protagonist has found a new drive and desire for life; rather, they follow a pattern closer to the mythological punishment of Sisyphus. The Sisyphean endeavors of the characters in Hemingway’s novels and short stories demonstrate that his philosophical beliefs are more aligned with those of absurdism, as defined by Albert Camus, than those of existentialism.

King Sisyphus is a character in Greek Mythology who is primarily known for his eternal punishment. Sisyphus was a clever and deceitful man who stole from others and even murdered when it was to his benefit. He was caught, however, when he attempted to outsmart the Greek god Zeus. He was promptly sent to Tartarus, the deepest part of the Underworld, to be punished for eternity. He was then tasked to roll an enormous...

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