In Albert Camus’ short essay “Myth of Sisyphus”, he compares Sisyphus’ punishment to the life of an average worker. It is a repetitive and grueling job that one is required to perform. Camus claims however, that the difference between the two is Sisyphus’ realization of his own fate. After pushing a large rock up a hill hundreds of times just for it to fall back down again, Sisyphus experiences the joy in knowing his own torment. However “tragic”, as Camus says, this myth may seem, Sisyphus understands why he is punished and that although it will never end, he is still superior to his torment. Comparing this to an average worker today may seem irrational, however I find the similarities between the two to be interesting. It is true that typically, the average worker of today is performing very repetitive tasks, not as exaggerated as Sisyphus’, but the same concept nonetheless. What is even more interesting, is the difference between them. On his descent, Sisyphus’ realization completely shifts his mindset and view toward his grueling task. Workers today, don’t typically have such a realization and think more “realistically” based off of society’s standards. Due to his grasp of “reality”, Sisyphus decides that his fate belongs to him and despite his punishment, he is no longer tethered to the pain it brings him.
In the novel “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman we follow the journey of the 30 year-old Eleanor Oliphant who suffers from multiple mental illnesses due to childhood trauma. Eleanor lives everyday the same. She goes to work, eats, and sleeps. She also tends to think that she is better than anyone who crosses her path because of her cleanliness and organization, even though she lacks basic social skills. When Eleanor meets a new co-worker named Raymond, she is disgusted by his sloppiness and lack of manners (by her standards at least). Despite this, Eleanor and Raymond start to spend time together and Raymond helps Eleanor uncover some mysteries from her past.
Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition is applicable to Eleanor and Raymond’s relationship because it was completely one-sided in the beginning. Although she spent time with Raymond, Eleanor never saw him as a friend, whereas Raymond treated Eleanor with kindness and respect. Throughout the book, we follow their journey on achieving mutual recognition from Eleanor’s perspective whilst discovering new things about each other. Eleanor never truly accepts Raymond until he pulls her out of her repetitive bubble and that is when their honest and accepting relationship begins.
In the short story Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders, Jeff faces the realities of emotional connections in his modern prison. Jeff, a criminal, goes through his imprisoned life being administered drugs that can twist his emotions in the blink of an eye. With a simple “Acknowledge”, Jeff’s MobiPak™ releases a drug fit to the experiment being performed. In the most recent experiment, Jeff is given a drug that makes him fall madly in love with two different girls as quickly as he falls out of it. Not only does Jeff realize the reality of his situation, but he begins to question his so called “emotions”. “I was sad that love was not real?…I was sad that love could feel so real and the next minute be gone” (55). I think that Saunders writes Jeff feeling the same way the reader would be, along with having the same realizations. When Jeff finally takes initiative and begins to think for himself, it leads to even greater character development later on in the story.