Food For Thought
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“That fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.” – Stephen Crane poem
Absurd – absurdity comes not from the fact that life is meaningless but that man tries to find meaning in it. The human condition is without value, meaning or purpose. Because there is no meaning, the universe can be described as indifferent, hostile and/or random. There is only chance, not purpose.
EXISTENTIALISM emphasizes human freedom and the individual’s responsibility to accept consequences of choices. To the existentialist, reality and life are absurd; there is no general pattern of meaning, no harmony. People need to create meaning in the face of chaos.
“Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors.” –Eugene O’Neill
“Whichever I chose
It amounts to the same
Absolutely nothing.” – The Cure
“There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval.” -- George Santayana
Six Major Themes
Find evidence of how each is addressed in the work.
1. Existence. Living = existence. There is an involvement in or commitment to do it.
2. Reason is Impotent. Human reason is weak and imperfect and cannot fully understand life.
3. Alienation. From – God, nature, other men, self.
4. Fear and Trembling. We all know we will die, but the question is when?
5. Nothingness. Nothing matters. There is no greater meaning. It’s all meaningless.
6. Freedom. Man is condemned by freedom because he is in charge of his life. Choices and consequences define the man.
Motifs: How do these reinforce the ideas of the Absurd/existentialism?
Sun, light, heat glare
Last sentence of the novel: “I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” Why? How do you interpret this?
Absurd Hero: The outlook of the absurd hero is this: determined to continue living with passion even though life appears to be meaningless. The tragedy is, and whose salvation lies in, the fact that he is conscious.
Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is sentenced to ceaselessly roll a rock to the top of a mountain and then must watch its descent. He will never reach the top. Other examples of the absurd hero: Meursault in The Stranger, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot.
ANTI HERO: Principal character in a play or novel who exhibits qualities the opposite of those usually regarded as heroic. This main character is characterized by a lack of traditional heroic qualities, such as idealism or courage. He or she displays faults and is unsympathetically portrayed. An anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also has enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. Anti-heroes can be awkward, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, or obtuse; but they are always, in some fundamental way, flawed or failed heroes.