The Stranger and The Odessey: Mersault and Sisyphus


Sisyphus was given a punishment by the gods, to push a rock up a hill, only to have it fall down on him again. Mersault is a person accused of murder who has spent over a year in jail. What both these characters have come to realize is that they are forced to live in these situations created by the gods, therefore they might as well enjoy or get used to them.

Mersault is forced to live in a cell, without his cigarettes, and with limited visitation rights. When this happens, Mersault recalls what his mother told him. She said, "One gets used to everything." When Mersault realizes he is not going to get out of jail, he becomes indifferent, just like he always does, and accepts his situation, searching for any positive aspects to his incarceration. He defies punishment by accepting his situation and enjoying himself in jail. Therefore, the whole point of Mersault going to jail is obliterated. When Mersault is condemned to death, he does not act surprised, although he wishes he did not have to die. After a while he also accepts that. It does not matter to him that he is dying, so long as he is dying for a purpose.

Sisyphus is damned for eternity to roll a rock up a hill. If he were to view his fate decreed upon him as punishment, for the rest of forever, then he would only sicken an already terminally ill situation (speaking metaphorically of course). Sisyphus starts to find meaning in his work, starts to enjoy his work, almost to take pride in his work, like a true laborer.

Mersault is like Sysiphus, in many ways. The only real notable difference is that Sisyphus has been punished by the gods, whereas Mersault does not believe in god. Mersault is indifferent to his situation, as is Sisyphus, as apparent from Camus? description. Mersault and Sisyphus both expressed a love for life (Mersault?s heart jumped at the idea of being pardoned, Sisyphus is being 'punished' due to his desire to stay in the real world). And most importantly, Mersault and Sisyphus both defy their detractors. They overcome their rulers. Mersault does not do it to prove anything to anybody. He just does it because it would be pointless to act any other way. With Sisyphus he can hold his head higher than the gods now, his work has ceased to be punishment, the gods have lost, he has won.

For Mersault and Sisyphus to overcome their struggles, they had to be placed in one. Their background for reaching their struggle is what makes them unique. Recalling such people with different philosophies, like the Denver Nuggets most explosive player Mahmoud-Abdul Rauf, who believes in not standing up for something he does not believe in, he has shown that by standing up for a different philosophy than most people believe in can lead to rejection and tragedy. What was special about Mersault was where his priorities lay, which made him think different from everybody else, therefore enabling the world to brand him. Mersault is the anti-Christ because he smoked and drank coffee at his mother?s funeral. Sisyphus was not regarded by a society as a vile person, but he was not accepted, he did not have interaction with them. These odd situations placed them both in struggles for their un-redeemable acts.

Mersault converses with the warden to discover that "prison deprives one of freedom." He understands that incarceration is punishment, just as Sisyphus did. They both move on to view their positions from a different perspective. Sisyphus moves from his position of sadness, to a position of happiness, mainly, in my view, to defy the gods, therefore it is not true happiness just defiance. He "...obeys fate without knowing it, as Oedipus did. Similarly Mersault accepts his imprisonment with the same kind of indifference that he takes everything else. Mersault, in fact, makes his own freedom by hanging on to his memories, he overcomes imprisonment, because he really is not imprisoned anymore.

Mersault can be considered a real world interpretation of Sisyphus, only a lot different and emotionless. Mersault has never really expressed a desire for anything, whereas Sisyphus? biggest desire was that to escape his bounds of human mortality and became an immortal human.

Both the punishments are