Jean Sartre
On of the major playwrights during this period was Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre had
been imprisoned in Germany in 1940 but managed to escape, and become one of the
leaders of the Existential movement. Other popular playwrights were Albert Camus,
and Jean Anouilh. Just like Anouilh, Camus accidentally became the spokesman for
the French Underground when he wrote his famous essay, "Le Mythe de Sisyphe"
or "The Myth of Sisyphus". Sisyphus was the man condemned by the gods
to roll a rock to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down again.

For Camus, this related heavily to everyday life, and he saw Sisyphus an
"absurd" hero, with a pointless existance. Camus felt that it was
necessary to wonder what the meaning of life was, and that the human being
longed for some sense of clarity in the world, since "if the world were
clear, art would not exist". "The Myth of Sisyphus" became a
prototype for existentialism in the theatre, and eventually The Theatre of the

Absurd. Sisyphus is the absurd hero. This man, sentenced to ceaselessly rolling
a rock to the top of a mountain and then watching its descent, is the epitome of
the absurd hero according to Camus. In retelling the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus is
able to create an extremely powerful image with imaginative force which sums up
in an emotional sense the body of the intellectual discussion which precedes it
in the book. We are told that Sisyphus is the absurd hero "as much through
his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death,
and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole
being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing." (p.89). Sisyphus is
conscious of his plight , and therein lies the tragedy. For if, during the
moments of descent, he nourished the hope that he would yet succeed, then his
labour would lose its torment. But Sisyphus is clearly conscious of the extent
of his own misery. It is this lucid recognition of his destiny that transforms
his torment into his victory. It has to be a victory for as Camus says: I leave

Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one\'s burden again. But

Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He
too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems
to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake
of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself
towards the heights is enough to fill a man\'s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus
happy. (p.91).Sisyphus\' life and torment are transformed into a victory by
concentrating on his freedom, his refusal to hope, and his knowledge of the
absurdity of his situation. In the same way, Dr. Rieux is an absurd hero in The

Plague, for he too is under sentence of death, is trapped by a seemingly
unending torment and, like Sisyphus, he continues to perform his duty no matter
how useless or how insignificant his action. In both cases it matters little for
what reason they continue to struggle so long as they testify to man\'s
allegiance to man and not to abstractions or \'absolutes\'. The ideas behind the
development of the absurd hero are present in the first three essays of the
book. In these essays Camus faces the problem of suicide. In his typically
shocking, unnerving manner he opens with the bold assertion that: There is but
one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. (p. 3).He goes on
to discover if suicide is a legitimate answer to the human predicament. Or to
put it another way: Is life worth living now that god is dead? The discussion
begins and continues not as a metaphysical cobweb but as a well reasoned
statement based on a way of knowing which Camus holds is the only epistemology
we have at our command. We know only two things:This heart within me I can feel,
and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it
exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. (p. 14)With
these as the basic certainties of the human condition, Camus argues that there
is no meaning to life. He disapproves of the many philosophers who "have
played on words and pretended to believe that refusing to grant a meaning to
life necessarily leads to declaring that it is not worth living." (p.7)

Life has no absolute meaning. In spite of the human\'s