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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

The Importance of Mystery

The story The Elephant Vanishes leaves the reader with more questions than answers. As a reader, when I finished this story I felt a sense of a sort of empty disappointment. I was reading through many details of a man’s life as well as his connection with this elephant. From the moment I read about how the elephant disappeared I was hungrily searching for an answer to my questions. Wheat happened to the elephant and the caretaker? Where did they both go? Why did the town move on so easily?

The story ended abruptly leaving me with more questions than answers. As a reader, I was judging the story too quickly. Waiting for what I believed to be a classic mystery, to be resolved. When it inevitably wasn’t I was left confused and upset for the main character. I think this was an important choice the author made. Using aspects of mystery, like the main character being suspicious about the disappearance of the elephant. And magical realism, like the elephant and caretaker changing size, put the reader in the shoes of the main character.

The main character ended his story feeling confused and empty, so the author made sure to end the reader’s story that way as well. The mystery not being solved was necessary to play on the reader’s feelings and leave them with the same emptiness the main character was feeling about the entire situation.

The Importance of Being Odd in “The Elephant Vanishes”

As I was beginning to read “The Elephant Vanishes” I started to feel melancholy. The story paints a mundane picture about the small town. Everything is boring and scheduled in their lives. As I was reading, I started to imagine that everything was black and white. There was no vibrancy to the narrator’s life until the elephant situation went down. Everything the narrator knew was challenged by the uncertainty of what others claimed to have happened to the keeper and the elephant. I see it as him acknowledging the fact that he is separating himself from the town and it’s overwhelmingly controlling atmosphere of influencing people. He was different then everyone in the town which had never happened to him. He stuck by the book, but had experienced something that no one would ever experience which shook his world. The strangeness of the elephant vanishing reflects how he is perceived by others. This is shown with the woman he meets with at the bar. She seemed to be into him but when he started to talk about the elephant and his connection to it and the keeper, she began questioning his sanity.

A Different Side of the Secret Women

In the Secret Women Irene and her husband were supposed to go to the Opera Ball. However, her husband says he can not attend due to a work situation. We later find out that both Irene and her husband are at the ball but they are there separately. Throughout Irene’s time at the ball, we can see how she finds freedom in being mysterious and not being known at the ball. On page 331 the author writes “The monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude native state, of being the unknown women, eternally solitary and shameless, restored to her irremediable solitude and immodest innocence by a little mask and concealing costume”. We see the husband’s perspective on Irene here which is a very rude perspective of her. He is making her sound like such a bad person even though he was there for the same reasons. It is unfair to Irene that she is the bad guy and that her husband’s actions are not important. There is a double standard.

202 Checkmates

Although simpler than some of the other stories we read, 202 Checkmates was an interesting commentary on race, socioeconomic class, family dynamic, and maturing. The more simple language and less descriptive world allowed for an in depth understanding of the story, and a more comprehensive discussion in class. We not only are transported into the world of our young narrator, but we also get to see her mature through her actions and experiences. I enjoyed reading this story and felt that even though it may not have been as complex as something like Escape from Spiderhead, I was able to dive deeper into the details of the story. Chess, while a commonly used trope in literature and movies, was a well written way to bring a commentary and lesson into the story, and it was different than other things I have read/seen that have chess as a main theme.

Conversation About Bread

“A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires shows the struggles of what it’s like being a POC at a mostly white school. The short story follows Brian and Eldwin as they interview as part of a project. During this interview, it becomes clear just how out of place the men feel sometimes. They state how they are constantly being watched and asked questions. Brian, who is in a wheelchair, says he is “more self conscious about his black maleness than his disability”. He says that he is constantly judged for his action just because of his skin color, just like his mother was while in college. Although the two men attend prestigious universities, they are still being treated differently, which just shows how prevalent racism is in the US. This short story brought attention to the every day things that other people don’t have to think about.

The Paradox of Connection: Anonymity and True Selfhood in the The Secret Woman

The short story, The Secret Women, explores how anonymity creates a paradox of connection: it allows people to disconnect from others (on a personal level) and to connect with a larger group of people at the same time. In the story, a man and his wife attend the same party in secret from each other. They go to the party in costumes so that they can be anonymous and disconnected from their personal lives. At the party, people are engaging in intimate physical acts, however, since everyone is in costume, no one has any real love for eachother; the hooking up is all surface level. The narrator of the story describes the way that the man’s wife feels after hooking up with someone:

She was going to leave the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forget him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home…

(Collette 331)

Although the anonymity of the party shields the guests from true intimacy, it allows them to express hidden aspects of themselves and their desires. The narrator adds that the wife felt the “monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest and crude, native state of being the unknown woman” (Collette 331).

The paradox of connection in the story is similar to what happens in the realm of the internet. Recently, I read part of a book by social media scholar Sherry Turkle, called “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.” In the book, Turkle makes the argument that the anonymity of the internet has made people think that they are more connected, yet, when it comes down to friendships and meaningful relationships, people are less connected. She writes,

Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other.

(Turkle 1)

This alludes to experiences of anonymity in the Secret Woman of being alone and free while at the same time interacting with many different people. This poses an interesting question: is it possible to be our true selves on the internet and/or is it possible to be our true selves with our most personal friends and partners in real life?

Work Cited

Colette. The Secret Woman. Date unknown.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books, New York, 2011.

Anonymity in “The Secret Woman”

The short story “The Secret Woman” written by Colette follows a husband trying to catch his wife cheating. Over the course of the story, the husband follows Irene through a ball where everyone present wears masks that obscure their faces. As the husband follows Irene, it becomes clear to the reader that she is acting abnormally, “… the eel-like Pierrot noticed him. ‘Is that a declaration, purple Domino?’ He did not reply, for he was stifled with surprise, waiting and nightmare…” (44). This shows that Irene is acting very differently to how her husband would expect her to act, to the point of leaving him speechless. The reason why Irene is acting unusual is because she believes herself to be anonymous and that no one at the ball will recognize her, “… she was going to leave again the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forger him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless…” (46). This shows that the reason she is acting abnormally is because of her anonymity, because she is the “unknown woman” who doesn’t need to worry about being criticized for her actions.

This is similar to how people often say things they wouldn’t normally say and do things they wouldn’t normally do when they believe that no one is watching or that they can’t be identified. Overall, Irene’s surprising behavior in “The Secret Woman” can be explained as her believing that she can say what she wants and act how she wants because she won’t be recognized.

202 Checkmates and Coming of Age

On the surface, 202 Checkmates seems like a story about a girl and her dad’s relationship and how playing chess allowed her to more deeply bond with her father. In reality, it is more of a coming of age story in which the chess allows the girl to see the world and her parents in a new light rather than bringing them closer together. When they first start playing, the girl sees her father as “the god of chess” much like how she probably sees him in her life. She is still very young and hasn’t had much exposure to the outside world and different perspectives. All she knows is her dad’s and her family’s. Initially their chess is very insular. It is just them playing together with no other distractions or inputs from the outside world. It is just their game that they play together. Her father dominates her every time and so he becomes this all knowing figure who could never lose.

Once chess is taken out of their own personal world and into the park is where the coming of age takes place. Realizing that her dad is not perfect and is in fact beatable is the girls awakening to the outside world. Part of coming of age is realizing that your parents are not these all knowing, perfect, god like creatures. They are human and have flaws and there comes a point in every kids life where they begin to see their parents for who they truly are which is simply human and nothing more. After the girl sees her father beaten for the first time her world changes and so does their chess game. She now sees her father’s flaws more clearly and deeply and that he is not only beatable by the outside world but by her as well. Manny is her first true influence outside of her dad and her family and he inadvertently helps her realize these things about her dad. After the father’s huge loss in the park the story really shifts and the girl begins to see the world more clearly. Manny opens her eyes up to moves she had never even considered on the chess board and he does the same to her world.

Naive Country People

After reading this story I believe Flannery O’Connor created the bible salesman to show Mrs. Hopewell’s character or mindset of thinking she is superior to everyone else makes her naive. At first, this man seemed religious, salt of the earth, hard working and kind: however, we learn that he wasn’t what he seemed. He was the exact opposite. Mrs. Hopewell believes that she is a good judge of character and that she knows what is and what isn’t good. She believes good country people are simple and even beneath her. She describes the bible salesman “Lord she said, he bored me to death but he was so sincere and genuine I couldn’t be rude to him. He was just good country people, you know,” she said, “just the salt of the earth.” She thinks that because the man said he was selling bibles to makes ends meet she believes she was better than him. This mindset caused her to not really see his true character and instead they were taken advantage of.

Hypocrisy, and Destruction of Binaries

In The Secret Woman, The main character a doctor lies about going to a ball to his wife Irene. Although his purpose in unknown, we can assume he is there most likely to cheat on his wife, a concept and idea that leave him with no qualms or guilt, except he refuses to remove his costume for fear of recognition. As seen in the story due to his assumption that as a man, he is the dominant member of their marriage binary, and such things don’t matter to him. However, he runs into his wife later on, who also said that she wasn’t attending, makes no such effort to conceal herself or shows no shame mingling freely between different groups of people. Her husband, despite being on the dominant side of the MALE/female binary, is still fearful and refuses to expose himself to others while his wife, is free to do as she pleases, when in his eyes she should be in his position. As previously mentioned, his actions at the beginning of the story receive no hostile language or tone, Irene is compared to various animals as her freedom to be with who she choses is considered monstrous.