Understanding Camus’ Argument in “Myth of Sisyphus”

Camus’ argument revolves around how hope clouds our understanding of the absurdity and meaninglessness of life. He uses the Greek myth of Sisyphus to explain his thinking. The story entails Sisyphus, a mortal, who is tasked with rolling a stone up a hill in hell for eternity as a punishment for various things he did during his life. Whenever the stone reaches the top, Sisyphus bears witness to it rolling back down the hill and must redo the task again, for eternity.

The traditional take that people have when analyzing the fate of Sisyphus is sadness and pity because repetition and hopelessness seem to be traditionally sad qualities. However, Camus argues that Sisyphus is happy because he knows his fate and is therefore truly free to do what he wants. In a way, Camus says that by knowing his fate, Sisyphus is empowered to accept his new way of life and be happy with it.

The only reason why Sisyphus would be sad is if he longed for a better life, which he knows is not possible. For this reason, Camus argues that Sisyphus is happy because he knows what his fate is and can make the best of his life as it is.

My thoughts on Camus’ Argument

I disagree with Camus’ perspective on Sisyphus’ situation. When looking at the myth, we come to learn that Sisyphus was a leader of a kingdom and lived many years happily. For this reason, I believe that Sisyphus has strong ground of memories that span a happy life. Now that he is tasked to roll this rock up a hill in hell for the rest of his life, it is hard for him to forget his past and what life could have been for him. I think that Camus glosses over the fact that Sisyphus had a privileged life before entering hell. Despite the fact that the gods may have clued him into his eternal punishment, his past is still filled with memories, which will cause him to reflect and gloat in the sadness of his condition.

However, I think that Camus is correct in certain aspects. For example, think about an animal that spends most of its life hunting for food, sleeping, and general survival. This animal would not have the same type of despair that Sisyphus would have, even though the repetition of their life is comparable. This is due to the fact that the animal is doing all they have ever known, while Sisyphus’ condition is an obvious downgrade from his previous life of ruling a kingdom.

This changes one’s look at how our world works. The only difference between the animal and Sisyphus (or any other human with a routine) is perspective and experiences. The perspective of the animal is narrow, focused on survival, and their experiences revolve around survival. The perspective of humans revolves around happiness, and our experiences reflect our past. Disappointment is therefore infinitely easier for someone who has experienced the loss of happiness than someone who has never experienced true happiness.

“The Elephant Vanishes” Reflections

The most intriguing part of the story “The Elephant Vanishes” was how people could interpret the ending differently. Since there was no conclusion about where the elephant disappeared, it can be left up to the reader’s imagination. The story also goes beyond just the elephant, as it takes a dive into the narrator’s personal life with his relationships and thought processes. Throughout the story, it’s revealed that the narrator is very put together, organized, and perfectionist about his life. His fascination with the elephant’s disappearance is something he can’t let go of due to this type of personality, as the elephant was something he loved, and watching it was a part of his routine. As we watch the narrator establish a relationship with a woman, we see a parallel between her and the elephant. Just like the elephant vanished from his life, so did the woman. The symbolism of the elephant is left up to the reader to decide and makes the story more interesting because the author could have just told us how the elephant vanishes but leaves the end of the story up to your thoughts.

202 Checkmates: A difference in generations

‘202 Checkmates’ is a story based on relationships, particularly a relationship between father and daughter.

Our narrator is a young girl living with her family who enjoys playing chess, despite losing every time to her father. Chess is mentioned and referenced multiple times throughout the story, and is the key o every conflict among the characters.

One of the side characters massively juxtapositions the father, he is young, his hands are soft, feminine even, and calm. The father works hard for his family, but is impulsive, and thinks that things will work out based on nothing but his own faith. This causes major issues with the Narrator’s mother, especially when he buys a marble chess board for the narrator’s birthday, which we learn they couldn’t actually afford.

This is another difference between the young man who acts as an alternate version of the father, whose relationship with the unknown woman who greets him at the end of each game, seems to be happy or at least alright with his relationship with chess, unlike with the Narrator’s mother and father.

The difference between the father and the young man could be interpreted as a mirror between generations, one who works hard but struggles with reality or concern themselves with the future, and another who doesn’t work in the same tireless way and thinks calmly about the future.

Growing Up One Move At A Time – 202 Checkmates

In 202 Checkmates, there are many instances where the reader can see a coming of age narrative. The main character gradually starts experiencing more real life problems within her family and, through playing chess with her father, is able to learn many valuable lessons. She is also able to see the decline in her father’s stability by how often they play and the reactions that her dad has. The PARENT/child binary is a big part of this short story and it works hand-in-hand with the theme of coming of age. The relationship between the main character and her father progressively becomes more mutual as the story continues on. At the beginning, she looks at her father with such curiosity and idolization. These feelings towards her father are present throughout the whole story, but at times, the reader can see the decline in her father’s state along with the idolization. The chess board that her father gives her for her birthday is a metaphor that represents the undying admiration that her father has for her and the tradition that they have been participating in. It is also a representation of the father’s poor financial decisions and where his priorities lie. This is a moment in the story where the reader can see a crack in the family structure that is seemingly held together by both parents’ love for their children.

The Harsh Fate of Hulga Hopewell

Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” concludes with a dramatic twist that leaves our protagonist, Joy/Hulga, abandoned and betrayed. The bible salesman who calls himself Manley Pointer dislegs her and leaves her high and dry. But Pointer also leaves Hulga with a lesson.

The story depicts Hulga and her mother, Mrs. Hopewell, as fairly well-off. They have a nice home and employ a helping hand of sorts, Mrs. Freeman, who Mrs. Hopewell refers to as good country people.

While Hopewell might describe herself as good country people in the company of others, and she likely believes it to be a compliment, I perceived it as a patronizing term. She refers to Pointer as good country people too, and later calls him dull. Hopewell is a member of the middle class, and while she may wish to identify with people of lower class than her who she believes to be good, salt of the earth, working people, ultimately she looks down on them and pities them as much as she respects them.

Hulga is not as different from her mother as she thinks she is. She considers herself to be an intellectual and distances herself from the outdated ways of her mother and the people she grew up around, rejects their religious illogic and embraces scientific reasoning and atheism, but she shares the same superiority complex as her mother, possibly to an even greater extent.

Hulga underestimates Pointer. She believes him to be simple minded, good country people, just as her mother does. She makes herself completely vulnerable to him, a stranger she has every reason in the world to mistrust, while wrongfully assuming that she has the upper hand, and then she pays for that assumption. Pointer shatters her patronizing fantasy of good country people. Frankly, Hulga is lucky that she didn’t wind up dead and lives on to take up a more complex view of humanity.

Parenting Your Parents.

202 Checkmates was a refreshing addition to the short story lineup. While coming-of-age stories like 202 Checkmates are not new to us, we were able to carefully dissect the new, unique parts of this specific story.

While most coming of age stories feature authoritarian parents, 202 Checkmates has a new parent/child dynamic. Readers are able to see into the lives of parents living paycheck to paycheck while also trying to salvage a broken marriage all while parenting and raising a child. The father uses chess as an escape yet also as a way to be with his daughter and teach her about life. Throughout her childhood years, she hears her parents fighting loudly through the walls and she watches her father lose his job and never find a new one. Chess was there when she became a woman and it taught her how to handle her unsettling home life. However, towards the end of story, specifically during match 202, the tables turn and the daughter becomes the teacher. The daughter was finally good enough to put up a good fight against her father, yet she chooses to refrain. She saw the obvious move to make that would bring her first victory against her father, yet she chose to let her father win. She was able to see the effects winning had on her father and she wanted him to remain happy and willing to continue playing chess with her.

Ultimately, the daughter was observant and learned that the sweetest victory is found in others’ joy. The daughter taught her father.

The Checkmate of a Lifetime

Rion Amilcar Scott’s “202 Checkmates” is a compelling story that teaches life lessons through the game of chess. The narrator is an 11-year-old girl who idolizes her father as he teaches her about life through the game of chess. At a young age, her father showed her that winning isn’t the most important. In the story, the narrator’s father is mostly just her chess buddy, but he’s also her hero. In the narrator’s family, chess is passed from generation to generation, and her father wants his daughter to learn about the game. However, while the father wants to use chess to teach the narrator life lessons, it’s also his only source of control and happiness. The father is jobless and is stressing over trying to find work, let alone the pressure from his wife. When he beats his 11-year-old, he jumps in celebration. Throughout the story, there’s a coming of age theme as the narrator learns the true value of the game. We see her mature over the story and she learns that the game of chess isn’t about being victorious, but about enjoying the time you have and the people you play with.

Breaking our Brains (The Elephant Vanishes)

In the short story “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami, our nameless narrator’s world is rocked by the absurdity of an elephant vanishing with no trace. He fixates on this event especially because he was the last person to see the elephant and his caretaker. In this time, he saw the elephant and caretaker impossible shifting sizes, possibly leading to the elephant’s escape.

The narrator’s regimented world of breakfast routines, reading the paper front to back, and selling monotonous kitchen supplies is entirely changed by this absurd, inexplicable occurrence. The rest of the world seems to follow suit. Newspapers cover the disappearance of the elephant and try to propose reasonable solutions to the event. However, no hypothesis makes sense, and people eventually lose interest in the story.

This story mimics our own news cycle. A terrible, most often complex, event will occur, the public will react, attention will gradually shift away, and the issue is left unsolved. Issues that require great critical thinking will be left untouched as people do not want to or cannot think outside of the binaries that the world has set into place. If an easy, readily available solution was given in response to the issue, the public’s unease would be solved. Because this is not the case, public attention wanes, news publications grow less and less involved with the story, and the issue is left untouched by those who are not dedicated to solving it.

Coming of Age “202 Checkmates”

In the story of 202 Checkmates we follow a 11 year old daughter trying to defeat her old man at chess. It is a classic coming of age story with the girl growing up and seeing the hardships her parents are going through and how she deals with them. The reason we read a common story like this is because of how the author portrayed chess in the fathers and daughters relationship. Every parent has some outlet with their kids whether it’s a sport, instrument, books, computers, video games or chess. This outlet serves as a safe place where kids and their parents can talk about something they both enjoy and can make conversation about it. Chess gave that opportunity for the father with him and his daughter playing everyday even after arguing with his wife. By playing a simple game the daughter now had a goal to accomplish and the father had a way to break some of the tension in their family. Chess taught the father about life from his dad and now is passing it on to his daughter even though shes caught up in playing the actual game. The father was trying to teach his daughter that chess was more about representing life then playing and we know she learned that at the end when she let her father win. The daughter learned to sacrifice her win to see her dad happy which is something the father wanted from the start so even though she could’ve won, the father won in a different way.

Life’s a Game of Chess (202 Checkmates)

Now hold on, little girl, my father said. Chess is like real life.

In Rion Amilcar Scott’s “202 Checkmates”, we follow the development of the narrator’s relationship with her father as well as her own personal development through their games of chess. Our narrator starts out knowing close to nothing about chess, as well as close to nothing about real life. Her father first shows her the correlation between chess and real life, saying that the “white pieces go first so they got an advantage over the black pieces,” (47). The topic of race is clear throughout the story, without ever being the focal point of it.

Throughout the story, we see the themes of coming of age, femininity, and struggle. The father continuously makes it clear that the narrator needs to apply the principles of chess to the way she functions in the real world. The mother of the narrator also tries to teach the narrator lessons, expressing her distaste for the game on multiple occasions and even saying that “Chess ain’t gonna get you work,” (50).

By the end of the story and after 201(real) checkmates at the hand of her father, our narrator has an entirely new perspective on the game and life. She starts thinking of her moves multiple turns in advance and the financial and marital struggles of her parents affect the way she looks at the pieces. Growth has made the narrator see that life is a game of chess and perhaps that chess is a game of life.

Outward Connections in “202 Checkmates”

The interesting story about a father teaching his daughter about how to play Chess really goes more into depth than just the game. The game forces the players to think, and think hard about the moves to come. My father also taught me Chess but not just to have someone to play with, he believed it would help me later in life and Robert was doing a similar thing. The first line of the story is, “In my eleventh year, my father taught me defeat.” In the story, the focus that Robert had when he was teaching his daughter was to give her a sense of what it means to experience loss and to work hard to alter the loss to make it a win. Robert taught her what it means to lose and win, however he does not do a good job of truly explaining how to properly accept those losses and wins. Robert sort of selfishly taught his daughter Chess as an outlit where he can be happy with a loss in his life. He was able to feel the emotion that comes with a win while still experiencing so much loss outside of the game. My father taught me Chess for the sole purpose of making me think. He always told me I must be 2 steps ahead so I don’t fall behind. My dad made sure it was clear to me that winning or losing didn’t matter, and that it was how I played tha game and that it was a smart game full of thoughout moves. My dad’s motives for teaching me Chess were a lot different that the motive that Robert had when he decided to teach Chess.

Irony in ‘Good Country People’

In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, ‘Good Country People’, she writes an unusual story about a group of rural people and the two sided lives that they live. One of the main points used throughout the story is that of the title “Good Country People” which is repeated throughout and used as a framework by which the characters want to present themselves as. Good country people are to be deemed simple minded and one sided by the reader. Yet the irony is that the reader is proved simpler by the end of the short story as their assumptions are turned against them. O’Connor uses the simple belief that many people hold towards country people to add an element of shock with a quick turn of events.

This turn of events is exemplified through the actions of a traveling bible salesman, who is initially characterized as a good country person. Most of the story follows his interactions with another country family, and the first majority of the story is a very boring accounting of these actions. This all changes when the bible salesman tricks the daughter of the family into giving him her prosthetic leg, before running off and reveling that he is actually a cruel person. This change of pace can seem startling to readers after so much monotonous buildup, but demonstrates mastery by O’Connor in proving to reader that they should never make assumptions about a group of people.

Uncertainty revolving “The Elephant Vanishes”

When finishing “The Elephant Vanishes,” the only thought that was pacing around my mind was, “What happened?” A local man who had an interest in the so-called elephant and its keeper even before they had both vanished knew a puzzling secret. He didn’t quite know for sure but he knew it had to keep hidden away from reporters. Towards the ending, he revealed what has been kept hidden to the readers but left out on what truly caused the disappearance of both the elephant and its keeper. Having a mystery left unsaid is not as uncommon as one would think. This leaves the readers and audience wanting for more and leaving to themselves to imagine what happened next. I believe with this story, it had told a good mystery but had left unsaid what truly happened at the end. Whether this is intended from the author or to keep the audience intrigued, it outstandingly did a successful enigma leaving the reader curious as to what had happened.

The Power of Self Recognition in “202 Checkmates”

At the end of “202 Checkmates” by Rion Amilcar Scott, the main character of the story–a 12 year old girl–lets her father win a chess game that she could’ve beaten him at, even though he has won and gloated about it the other 201 times they’ve played. Throughout the story, she has been getting better and better at chess by learning from expert players at the park and studying the flaws in her father’s strategy. Her goal has always been to eventually beat him. At the same time, she’s been watching him struggle with unemployment, drinking, and marital issues, while using chess with her as an outlet/distraction from her problem. So, when she is finally poised to beat him at his own game–one move from winning–she decides to throw the game. She realized that he needs that win more than she does. He uses chess to maintain their power dynamic of FATHER/child, in order to comfort his own insecurities about his life and marriage. She is is growing out of that power dynamic, as she seeing her father’s issues and finds her own autonomy. But for her, finding agency and confidence doesn’t have to mean winning. Knowing that she can win is enough, because she is giving herself the recognition she needs, not waiting to get it from her. She outgrew his childish demeanor around chess, and she is willing to let him win the game in order to affirm to herself that she doesn’t need the that recognition to know that she won in the long-term.

The Idea of Winning and Losing

When reading “202 Checkmates” there is a clear sense of winning and losing in chess. From the dynamic of the daughter always losing to the father in chess. Because the father was always better than her in the game. As one plays a game they by time eventually get better and better. Also with help can make that process increase exponentially.

In the story the daughter meets a man at the park his name is Manny. He is an extraordinary chess player who was very good at chess. Who had beat the father three times in a row after the father had beaten the daughter. The daughter had never seen her father lose in chess before. It was a shocker to her seeing her father get obliterated by another because she always thought her father was amazing and couldn’t be beaten. As she still was learning the game she was taught that having one of the pawns make it fully to the other side can turn into a queen. Because when she played she always protected her queen more than her king. When the aim of the game is to go for the king not the queen. After she told how important that was it wasn’t till the 202nd the daughter and father played. That she found an opening to turn her pawn into a queen. But she also had the opportunity to checkmate her father with other pieces and finally win. But since she was transforming in real life she wanted the queen more than winning. And she felt accomplished by turning the pawn into a queen more than beating her father. It wasn’t about winning or losing because she was able to do what she wanted to have done and that was good enough for her.

Identity and “The Secret Woman”

When analyzing “The Secret Woman” in class, I thought that another student made an interesting remark regarding the masquerade as featured in the story. Essentially, by covering up one’s true identity, someone potentially unmasks another.

At its heart, masks do present a lot of challenge to us as humans. We are so used to actively perceiving and analyzing facial features and expressions that when we are met with something close to but not quite the same as the real thing, such as a mask, we are met with confusion and uncertainty. It is not so abstract as to mask the presence of a human being, but it is abstract enough to mask any emotions or expressions. Under this vale of uncertainty, “The Secret Woman” suggests people may stray from their common behaviors. When together, the couple seems to appear relatively mundane about their lives and their view on attending this ball. Under the vale of the mask, however, the wife seems to act wildly and energetically, as she bounces around the party. Under another mask, the husband stalks his wife, watching her activities.

Ultimately, I don’t think that “The Secret Woman” is supposed to be about the faithfulness of one partner to another but is meant to show the natural feelings that people will have when not bound by societal or cultural expectations. The wife still loves her husband, but she has a more daring and youthful side that she would keep to herself if it weren’t for an opportunity like this. I think this can apply to us a lot when we meet new people, are in public spaces with many strangers around, or are online. In these situations, people either don’t have context about you or cannot access it whether it be because of a literal or metaphorical mask. How do we let unfamiliarity or uncertainty impact the way we confront and behave in front of others? How does a mask change our character?

Conformity in “The Secret Woman” and “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

The short stories “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” and “The Secret Woman” both have one thing in common: the theme of conformity. The short story “The Secret Woman” deals with female expectations of sexuality. For context, “The Secret Woman” was written in the first half of the 1900s. In the short story, a man who attends a sex party on his own accord is shocked when his wife, Irene, sneaks off to a sex party. The husband uses the term “Imprisoned” to describe the arms of the men engaged with Irene at the party, suggesting a possessiveness to her sexuality. Furthermore, Irene’s hands are described as demonic by her husband, displaying that he views her sexuality as “sinful”, which reflects on puritanical views of women at the time that the story was written. While the husband goes to the sex party for his own enjoyment, he only sees a fault in his wife being there, displaying the double standards in female and male sexuality and how they are able to be expressed. Irene defying conformity exposes the harsh reality of how women’s sexuality was viewed at the time, and how it is in many ways, viewed now. 

Likewise, the short story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” shares the common theme of conformity. Dina, the main character, is a black woman at Yale. Throughout the story, Dina is shown to isolate herself, even from Heidi, who is portrayed as her only friend. She isolates herself by stocking up on ramen in order to avoid talking to others, denying her own sexuality, and describing herself as a revolver when asked the question of an object that she would be. These examples of her trying to stray away from her peers reflect her refusal to conform at Yale, a place where, throughout the story, it is evident that she feels isolated at. Her race, sexuality, and backround all contribute to this. She is one of the few black people at the PWI and faces a crisis of identity due to her sexuality that causes her to go through self-loathing. Her family life, with her dead mother, invertedly caused her to be harsh to Heidi, following the death of Heidi’s mother. Her isolation causes her to not conform to the other students at Yale, resulting in her moving back to Baltimore with an Aunt that she barely knew. 

Both “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” and “The Secret Woman” deal with non-conformity as a result of identity, whether that be gender, race, or sexuality. 

Tenth of December

The Tenth of December is a fairly short story, but it has many features in the story. It constantly changes perspective. In the beginning of the book, Robin walks through the woods imagining himself tracking creatures that he made up in his head called “Nether,” who kidnapped this girl who attends at his school, Suzanne Bledsoe. He is seemed to be tracking actual footprints, although he is imagining them as “Nether” footprints. When he finds a winter coat near a frozen pond, he is determined to give it back to the owner. Robin seems to think that there is no time to be wasted to return the coat to the owner, so he decides to cut through the frozen pond to make the journey short. As he’s walking on the frozen pond, the ice breaks and Robin falls through. The perspective changes to a old man who is terminally ill named Don Eber. He finds himself in the woods with no protection from the blistering cold and hopes that it will kill him. He does this to spare his wife and children from the suffering of caring for him as his illness progresses. He is preparing for his life to end, suddenly he turns around and sees a kid in the distance drowning in a freezing cold pond. He runs towards the kid, he’s holding his coat. Robin successfully gets the kid out of the pool. The kid turns out to be Robin. Eber gives him his clothes and tells Robin to go home. Eber’s mindset changes and no longer wants to end his life. He wants to be there for his kids, Robin sends his mother to go outside and supply Eber with clothes and invites him inside there house.

The Identity Crisis

The story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” follows an incoming Yale student, Dina, and her struggle to function in society. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about Dina’s personality and why she is socially recluded. I feel that the reason for her poor mental health stems from her lack of acceptance and understaning of who she is.

The main social factors that affect Dina are her race–she’s Black–, her socioeconomic status, and her sexuality. All of these factors also contribute to identity. During orientation, Dina quickly realizes that she is racially in the minority. She frequently will bring up and contrast White culture from Black culture, emphasizing how she does not fit in. Furthermore, she doesn’t feel that she even fits in with the other students that are Black. Dina says: “Not that I understood the Black people at Yale. There was something pitiful in how cool they were”. My interpretation is that perhaps Dina did not culturally relate to her Black peers, and, therefore, did not feel comftorable in attempting to be friendly with them.

Another part of her identity that Dina struggled with was her economic background. She came from a poorer family, which is referenced all throughout the story. When talking about an instance in which she was walking home from the grocery store, a boy with nice shoes offers to help her with her groceries. Because she “didn’t want someone with such nice shoes to see where [she] lived”, she ended up panicking and running away. I feel that this implies that she feels very self-conscious about her financial situation, which prevents her from reaching out and making connections. Even to the extent of pushing away help.

The final social factor that I want to note is her sexuality. While reading the story, there is enough evidence to make a strong argument that Dina is gay, despite her insistence that she is not. I think that her intimacy with her friend Heidi indicates that Dina is attracted to women. However, once Heidi comes out as gay, Dina pushes her away and ends whatever their relationship was. It’s safe to say that Dina is at least confused regarding her own sexual preferences, and her first instinct is to disconnect with anyone or anything that is close enough to her to possibly cause her trouble.

Among other factors, the driving causes of Dina’s need to separate herself from other people all relate to her identity. She feels isolated at her school due to her race, she is highly self-conscious about her economic background which causes her to be anti-social out of a sense of embarrasment, and she does not even understand her own sexuality, leading to extreme insecurity. And Dina, in response, does what she is most comfortable with and pushes people away. Dina failed–probably justifiably due to her background–to put herself out their because she was not confident enough in who she was. Maybe if Dina can come to terms with her economic status and understand her own sexuality better, she could more confidentally open up with people.

The Secret Remains (A “The Secret Woman”)

“The Secret Woman,” is a short story following a man and his wife, who both lie to one another in order to attend an ball. Upon arrival, the man witnesses his wife engage with several men and women, cheating on her him.

The story is masterful, in that the lack of length the story contains forces the reader down a rabbit-hole of dissection of what’s already there. There’s so much to pick apart from the story off of such little content.

The narrative and dynamic between both the wife and husband creates a patriarchal binary between the man and woman, as we see the husbands attitude towards the wife do a complete 180 after seeing her self liberation at the party, introducing her as dainty and almost docile, and ending by calling her evil and black. Moreover, the husband initially lied to the wife which leaves readers uncertain towards what his intentions were at the ball in the first place.

The use of the wife’s costume also is a curious metaphor for the secrecy of the wife as I personally interpret it as a double meaning for the reader and the husband not entirely understanding the true identity of the wife. The story is all told through the husbands perspective, so we only ever get to his perception of his wife, when in reality, the wife may have been putting up a front for the husband the entire time, using her social life as a ways to reject/free herself from the binary.

Overall, the story definitely served as a change of pace from some of the other stories we’ve read whilst maintaining a lot of room to dissect, and discuss.