The Myth of Sisyphus

by

Albert Camus

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The Myth of Sisyphus: 8. Conquest Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In this section, Camus holds up the conqueror as an example of the absurd life. At some point in his life, says Camus, a man must choose between action and contemplation—a conqueror chooses the former.
Camus’ next example of an absurd life, that of the conqueror, is again a predominantly male one.
Themes
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The conqueror knows that his actions are ultimately futile but chooses to do them anyway in full knowledge of this fact. If man aims to be something, it has to be in this life, says the conqueror. Conflict brings out the fullest potential in people, because they live in full view of the likelihood of death.
The conqueror brings a kind of vivacity to life by engaging in actions that he knows might bring about his death. By “conqueror,” Camus essentially means “warrior” or “fighter”—not expressly the individual who leads the takeover of a new territory.
Themes
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The Church opposes the conqueror, just as it did the actor. Conquerors reject any notion of the eternal—to the conqueror, the only “truths” are those that can be touched by the hand.
Like the actor-figure, the conqueror rejects any deferral of life (like eternal life espoused by the Church)—the only life is the one to be lived here today.
Themes
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Camus concludes this section by reminding the reader that Don Juan, the actor and the conqueror are just sketches of a “style of life” that “plays the absurd.” He insists that he is not proposing “moral codes” or “judgments.” They are extreme examples, he says, but theoretically anyone could live an absurd life by refusing to try and resolve absurdity—even an office worker, as long as they “live in harmony with a universe without future and without weakness.”
It is problematic for Camus to claim that his examples of absurd lives do not contain any moral codes—they most certainly involve judgments. Camus fundamentally sees these lives as more quantitative, more conscious of the absurd, and, in essence, more valid than the average life. Furthermore, in making his examples of absurd lives primarily male, he does away with the experiences of half of the human population and undermines the only supposedly universal truth: the absurd. His concluding remarks seem to suggest that, if an individual is aware of the meaninglessness of their life, this is enough to live with the absurd.
Themes
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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