Meursault and Sisyphus: Making Do in a State of Suffering

Meursault has been sent to prison. He has committed the ultimate crime, murder, by shooting an Arab man five times.

This mirrors Sisyphus’s position of eternal punishment, being bound to roll a rock up a mountain, only for it to fall back down, in a continuous loop forever.

But writer Albert Camus insists that Sisyphus is actually happier than most humans ever will be. That, because his life is confined to suffering, by changing his mindset and accepting his reality, living as a prisoner instead of a free man, Sisyphus can live in eternal bliss.

“All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. (Camus)”

Meursault, rather than wallowing in his own pity and desiring the outside world, he adapts to the state of his life and accepts his punishment, achieving a morbid sense of comfort in his suffering. Meursault is the model prisoner, his life is carved out for him and he accepts it, rather than dreading it. He has his small fixes, but ultimately understands that his life is only punishment, and in his trademark boring and detached way, he’s accepted it. Only time will tell what awaits him next. How will what comes next tie into The Myth of Sisyphus, if at all?

“A Conversation about Bread” and the Double-Consciousness Writing Struggle.

As Eldwin attempts to write his ethnographical assignment based on Brian’s school experiences, he finds himself trapped in a creative rut. As he and Eldwin are two of the few black students in the overwhelmingly white UCLA, Eldwin feels pressured by Brian into writing his essay in specific ways. Should he write his essay without sacrificing his creative vision, which could potentially be misinterpreted as conforming to or reinforcing racial stereotypes? Or should he sacrifice his vision and conform to how white people want to see his work? Can a story be told without treating the subject as an object? This struggle continues throughout the story, and spurs many revisions of his essay.

As Brian puts it, “There’s no real way for you to capture the regional differences without getting all stereotypical. … Like, why would you want to tell this story about a bunch of black Southern guys discovering bread anyways? What purpose does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?” (178)

Eldwin responds “Because it’s a good story, about cultural differences, racial differences, class differences. It’s more about how many different kinds of black people there are than it is about making everyone but Junior seem like a type.” (178)

Both of them make good points here. At the end of the story, a compromise is not reached. Where should the line be drawn? How can this issue be overcome?

Spiderhead and Our World

Escape from Spiderhead is presented as a story far removed from the norms of our world. We’re shown testing facilities complete with made-up drugs, snarky scientists, and prisoners of experiments who have lost their right to decide their fate. While the story may seem extremely unrealistic, I wonder, is this where we’re headed? I hadn’t really connected the dots until I read this small line,

“In his defense, Abnesti was not in such great shape himself: breathing hard, cheeks candy red, as he tapped the screen of his iMac nonstop with a pen, something he did when stressed,”

This line, while pointing out Abnesti’s declining state of health, also reveals that Apple is an existing company in this universe. Among made up devices and compounds, Darkenfloxx, Verbaleuce, Vivistif, Mobipak, there is an iMac, a recognizable device from our world. While Escape from Spiderhead surrounds us with its own terminology, this iMac is here to remind us that the events of this world our still happening in a version of our world, a world not totally impossible via the means of science. How do we end up on this dystopian path, where prisoners are slaves to research, and where chemical weapons become emotional weapons? What can we do to stop it?