Getting used to punishment The book, The Stranger, was written by Albert Camus and was based on the Myth of Sisyphus, and thus these two books share many similarities and also contain many differences. In the Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus was eternally condemned by the gods to push a rock up a hill, only to have it fall down on him again. Meursault however, is a person who is accused of murder, sent to jail for over a year, and is then executed. What both these characters have come to realize is that they are forced to live in these situations created by fate, therefore they might as well enjoy or at least "get used to"ÃÂ them.
Meursault is forced to live in a cell without any pleasures, such as his cigarettes or the "love"ÃÂ of a woman. When this happens, Meursault recalls what his mother told him.
She said that one could get used to just about anything. When Meursault realizes and understands that this is just part of his punishment, he becomes indifferent, as he always does, and accepts his situation. Though Meursault had mentally accepted his situation, his body still suffers withdraw symptoms and sexual urges. Eventually however, his body "got used to it"ÃÂ as well. He passively defies punishment by accepting his situation and enjoying himself in jail. That is when Meursault's punishment isn't a punishment anymore. When Meursault is condemned to death, he does not act surprised, although he wishes he did not have to die. After a while he accepts that too. It did not matter to him that he is going to die, since he reasoned that he would have to face the same dilemma in a few years anyway.
Sisyphus on the other hand, is damned for eternity to perform a futile task, which is to roll a rock up a hill where it will fall back down, and the process repeats itself. If he were to view his fate decreed upon him as punishment, for the rest of forever, then he would only make his presently bad situation into an eternity of horrible torture, which was the original design of the plan. However, Sisyphus triumphs over the gods because he has also gotten "used to it"ÃÂ in a way and thus his intended punishment failed to be a punishment for him, just like Meursault's punishment.
Meursault befriends and talks to the guard and he discovers that prison "deprives one of freedom."ÃÂ He understands that this and many other "annoyances"ÃÂ were simply a part of his punishment, just as Sisyphus did. They both move on to view their positions from a different perspective. Sisyphus makes a transition from sadness, to a degree of happiness, mainly, to defy the gods; therefore it is not true happiness. He "...obeys fate without knowing it"ÃÂ, just as Oedipus did. Similarly Meursault accepts his imprisonment with the same kind of indifference that he takes everything else. Meursault, being the existentialist that he is, would not let his life go to waste in boredom. He entertains himself by noticing and memorizing every miniscule detail in his jail cell, sharpening his memory. He also learns to kill time by reminiscing on memories of the past. He learns that "if you lived one day"ÃÂ¦you could live a hundred years in jail."ÃÂ This also has a great deal to do with conceptual reality, characterized by the quote, "You are where your mind is."ÃÂ This means that if your life is like heck, yet you can find some joy in it, then in your reality life is great. Like wise, the opposite can happen. You could be the richest man on earth, be married to Britney Spears, and still be the most miserable person on earth if you don't enjoy it.
Meursault is like Sisyphus, in many ways. The only real notable difference is that the gods have punished Sisyphus, whereas men punished Meursault, who was an existentialist and did not believe in god. Meursault becomes indifferent to his situation, and so does Sisyphus. However, Meursault and Sisyphus both had a love for life. For example, Meursault's heart jumped at the idea of being pardoned, while Sisyphus returned to the living world to chide his wife and had to be dragged back to the underworld. And most importantly, Meursault and Sisyphus both defy their detractors (the guys who punishes them). Meursault does not do it to prove anything to anybody. He just does it because it would be pointless to act any other way. Sisyphus however, can hold his head in pride as he goes back down the hill, for he has defied the King the gods, and now their vain attempt to punish him has proven futile.
At first glance, the execution of a murderer and the condemnation of a man who challenged god seem fitting. But when we look closer, we see that Meursault was executed for no reason other than that he didn't cry at his mother's funeral, and Sisyphus was punished for the telling of a misdeed by Jupiter. Delving even deeper reveals that Meursault did not intend to kill the Arab, but the hot glare of the sun caused a natural reaction, which caused him to pull the trigger. Sisyphus' punishment was equally unfair. First of all, the father god Jupiter, is the one who is committing a crime (the abduction of Aegina), and yet Sisyphus is punished for doing the right thing, which is to tell the truth. Secondly, Sisyphus did what he did only to help others. By telling on the god, he has sacrificed himself in order to bring water to the people of Corinth, which is a very noble act. Thus it is very unjust to punish someone for doing a noble act, and also shows how petty and childish the gods were.
The main ideas of existentialism are embedded in both the Stranger and the Myth of Sisyphus. Both, Meursault and Sisyphus are absurd heroes. The absurd hero is a hero because he achieves the ultimate rebellion, "resisting the illusion of a rational order while also resisting despair"ÃÂ. They both are sentenced to a fate and for better or for worse, they both accept their situations.