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IB English: Language and literature
Response tasks to support the information sheet: The Myth of Sisyphus
Questions on Part 1: The Absurd Reasoning
1. Who was Sisyphus. What is Sisyphus a symbol of and why?
Sisyphus was a king of Corinth. He is the symbol of futility because he was condemned to roll a marble block to the top of a hill, only to see it roll back down again: a useless action to punish his avidity.
2. What is Camus’ definition of an absurdist recognition?
Camus’ definition of an absurdist recognition is the man’s futile search for meaning, unity and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values.
3. How might one respond to an absurdist awakening?
When a man recognizes absurdity, he either decides to stop thinking rationally and instead asking God’s help, or either doing the opposite, so turning away from God to follow reason.
4. How does Camus respond to his recognition of the absurdity of life?
Camus responds to the recognition of the absurdity of life by understanding that there is a contradiction between human desire of reason and the unreasonable world.
5.What are the three consequences from the full knowledge of the absurd, according to Camus?
The three consequences from the knowledge of the absurd are: revolt, freedom and passion.
Questions on Part 2: The Absurd Man
1. Summarise the three examples of the Absurd Man, as described by Camus
The three examples of the absurd man according to Camus are: the serial seducer(Don Juan), the actor and the conqueror. The first man sees love as a passionate, intense but short story. The second man lives life in appearance. The third man is the strong man who prefers to take part to a battle instead of watching other people fight, so to become a part of history.
Questions on Part 3: Absurd Creation
1. Summarise Camus’ idea of “philosophical suicide”
Camus describes the absurd as being something that makes us ask many questions which cannot have a response. He described the feelings this produces as negative and depressing. He thinks people cannot escape absurdity, but need to learn how to live with it. the philosophers who try to escape from absurdity’s logic commit “philosophical suicide”
Questions on Part 4: The Myth of Sisyphus
1. Why does Camus see Sisyphus as an absurd hero?
Camus sees Sisyphus as an absurd hero because this Greek hero is condemned to repeat a useless task over and over again, which creates an absurd atmosphere. He has no faith in being freed from this tragic task.
2. Explain the metaphor of Sisyphus as related to the modern man
Sisyphus is related to the modern man who works in factories and offices. Camus describes both the task carried out by Sisyphus and the job of the modern man as being useless and pointless. They both do absurd things.
3. Why must one “imagine Sisyphus happy”?
“one must imagine Sisyphus happy” because even though he carries out the same futile task, he finally understood the absurdity of the situation and so the recognition of absurdity makes him finally accept his condemn and he manages to live happily.
Susanna & Sara
The myth of Sisyphus
Who was Sisyphus? What is Sisyphus a symbol of and why?
1) Sisyphus is a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same task of pushing a boulder up a mountain which will then roll back down again.
What is Camus’ definition of an absurdist recognition?
2) From the moment absurdity is recognised it becomes a passion the most harrowing of all.
How might one respond to an absurdist awakening?
3) People respond or by abandoning reason and turning to God, or elevating reason and arriving at Platonic forms and an abstract God.
How does Camus respond to this recognition of the absurdity of life?
4) He recognises the contradiction between the desire of human reason and the unreasonable world.
What are the three consequences from the full knowledge of the absurd, to Camus?
5) Revolt, freedom and passion.
Summarise the three examples of The Absurd Man, as described by Camus.
1) the first example is Don Juan, a serial seducer who lives his entire life passionately. The second example is the actor who shows a short lasting life for a short lasting fame. The third example is the conqueror the warrior who gives up all promises of eternity to affect and engage fully in human history.
Summarise Camus’ idea of “philosophical suicide”.
Camus’ idea of “philosophical suicide” does not consist in overcoming the feeling of absurdity, but in whether we can live with it, merging together three main aspects: absence of hope, continual rejection and conscious dissatisfaction. Philosophers who try to “wiggle away from the logic posed to them by the absurd” eventually will commit the philosophical suicide as there is no reconciliation or transcendence.
The Myth of Sisyphus
Why does Camus see Sisyphus as an absurd hero?
- Camus sees Sisyphus as an absurd hero because he lives life to the fullest, hates death and is condemned to a meaningless task.
Explain the metaphor of Sisyphus as related to modern man.
- Camus believes that modern men now do meaningless tasks just as Sisyphus does and is condemned to do (“metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices.”)
Why must “one imagine Sisyphus happy”?
- Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the pointlessness of his task and the certainty of his fate and whole future life, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance, therefore becoming happy.
Emma Chiara & Ludovica
The internet might be a historic boon for kitten-fanciers and steaming-eared trolls, but it’s not all good news. Online writing, you see, is destroying the purity of English as we know it and threatening to dumb us all down into a herd of screen-jabbing illiterates. Or so runs one regular technophobic complaint, the latest version of which has been offered by Robert McCrum. He is worried about what he describes as “the abuse and impoverishment of English online (notably, in blogs and emails)” and what he perceives as “the overall crassness of English prose in the age of global communications”.
In his book “The boy with the striped pyjamas” John Boyne uses many symbols, one of which particularly inspired me. In contrast with other books on the Shoah ( (Hebrew for “destruction”), Boyne decides to put an idea as the main characterin his book. Many would say that it was Bruno, the commandant’s son, or Shmuel, the little polish boy in the camp. But what really Boyne wants is that innocence and ignorance are what the people think about after reading his book. This is demonstrated by the ignorance of little Bruno, who believes his father, and the innocence of both of them, neither knowing what really was going on and what was that people knew or not knew at those times. This symbolism has persuaded me to read further in the book; Boyne wants to emerge from what could be called a layer of banality and tragedy (the books of authors who tried to make a difference telling in stories about the Shoah). He wanted to open the readers eyes, by closing those of two innocent little boys, not at all leaders in what was happening. By Zacc Massagrande
In “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”, the author John Boyne uses many different symbols which convey various meanings. The one which mostly interested me, is the one played by Lieutenant Kotler. The soldier, in fact, is a sort of stereotype, meaning that, in the author’s mind, many of the high-graded soldiers were as cold, emotionless and horrible as this character of the book. Lieutenant Kotler represents the sort of prejudices which were thought of this type of men, which may really be true, but we don’t actually have the evidence that every single Lieutenant, Commandant, Tenant or other soldiers of greater importance, were as emotionless and pitiless as Kotler. Maybe some were exactly like this character, but maybe others were the exact opposite, hating their every action against innocent people, but being forced to behave in this way. We will never know, but I sincerely hope that so coldly hearted men existed in such great quantity. Giulia Spigai
In “The boy in the striped pyjama”, John Boyne uses many different symbols; one of these is the Star of David also known as Shield of David in Hebrew. There are many legends behind this symbol, the most common one talks about how a young warrior (which would eventually become King David) created his shield crossing two triangles and covering them with leather. At first it was used in Jewish religion, to wish good luck or to décor monuments, but during WW2 it became the symbol used by Nazis to recognise Jews, like a symbol of shame. John Boyne uses the Star of David in the book to highlight how even a little boy like Shmuel was discriminated because of his religion, showing how Jews had to live under the control of Nazis without having freedom.Allegra Guizzon
I think that one of the most significant symbol which I have found in this book is the “fence”. It symbolizes the destruction from the Holocaust when a mass of approximately six million Jews during World war II, led by Adolf Hitler, were killed in these horrible camps. It also symbolizes how the Nazis separated people (Jews). The house in Berlin represents the memories of Bruno – happy, sad, and tinted. Lots happened in that house and it is through the flashbacks of what happened in the house in Berlin that the reader is able to fit the mystery of the fence together themselves. Emanuele Angi
In John Boyne’s book ‘the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, the implication of symbolism is widely used.
Bruno represents the ignorance and innocence of the common German citizens during the 2nd World War, those who weren’t sure the extent of the ghastly deeds commited by German soldiers involving the genocide of the Jews.
In this case, as Bruno encounters puzzling events, he starts asking more questions, and he becomes more involved in his father’s job, whereas before he and his family moved to Auschwits, he never really questioned his father about his job and about what was happening with the Jews. Kalyan Wessendorp
In the boby in the striped pyjamas there is a lot of symbolism, for example the bench or the fence. In the boy in the striped pyjamas the fence for John Boyne represents the separation between two different worlds: the one of Bruno, ” happy “, ( he doesn’t really feel happy at Out With ) and the one of shmuel the boy that is the same age as Bruno but has been forced to live in horrible conditions and to grow up very quickly to adapt to a world of discrimination and racism, to “live” in the concentration camp on the other side of the fence. I also think that for Boyne the fence symbolises the innocence of both the boys, Bruno because he doesn’t know what shmuel represented in those days and Shmuel because he doesn’t know who Bruno’s father is. Both of the boys live in two separate worlds. Valentina Marini
I think that one of the most significant symbol which I have found in this book is the “fence”. It symbolizes the destruction from the Holocaust when a mass of approximately six million Jews during World war II, led by Adolf Hitler, were killed in these horrible camps. It also symbolizes how the Nazis separated people (Jews). The house in Berlin represents the memories of Bruno – happy, sad, and tinted. Lots happened in that house and it is through the flashbacks of what happened in the house in Berlin that the reader is able to fit the mystery of the fence together themselves. Greta Sbirziola
In ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ John Boyne uses many symbols which stand for bigger topics. A very interesting example of this is the symbolism he uses when he talks about the barbed wire because he wants to show us how the camp is divided from Bruno’s house, but even how the Jews were divided from the rest of the people. It shows the division that the Nazis wanted to have from Jewish people. Barbed wire is also a wire with clusters of short, sharp spikes set at intervals along it, used in this case, as a sort of obstacle. This shows the harsh way that the Nazis kept the Jews away from the rest of the population. Elena Nalon
How are you? Do you like the house there in Berlin? Our house at Out – With is terrible, the house is awful and boring and there is nobody to play with, the only persons here are the soldiers, Father, Mother, Gretel and some strange people which live on the other side of the fence, they all wears striped pajamas and live in small houses.
Here at Out – With the days are boring and there is nothing to do but recently Herr Liszt came to give us lessons but he is boring too, he just want me to study history and geography and he doesn’t make me read books.
Here at Out – With there is even nothing to explore, there is just a strange plaque on a bench, but that isn’t enough, there is also a stupid soldier called lieutenant Kotler who can only mistreat me and Pavel our waiter.
I just want to come back in Berlin and leave this horrible place.
Your loving grandson Bruno.
(Andrea Veronese 8C)
13 May 1943
I’m very happy to be writing to you, I miss you very much! How are you? How is Grandfather? I hope you’re both fine. This place is terrible, Grandmother, I hope you’ll never have to see it. I wish with all my heart and soul to be back in Berlin with you, in our actual home.
This place is so bad, I actually had my very first nearly-fatal experience here. I’d built a beautiful tire swing and hung it on a tree. After a couple of minutes, I was lying flat on the floor, with a badly hurt and bleeding knee.
Another negative thing about this “Out-With” place, is that exploring is practically impossible. As adventurous as I am, I’ve found a way to have fun, though. There is this bench with a plaque on it in the middle of the garden. A very nice and flower-filled garden, by the way! After the house’s boundary walls, is a sort-of field; after that, the camp starts. It must be a really nice camp, since a lot of people chose to live there. The only weird thing is that they all wear the same filthy striped pyjamas and none of them has hair or a beard. It must be a new fashion I’m not aware of.
This place is so boring, Mother and Father had to call a tutor for me and Gretel to continue our schooling. Herr Lizst doesn’t like fictional books. He wants us to learn everything about our country’s history and wants us to know which are the wrongs that have been inflicted to our country. What does inflict mean, Grandmother?
I miss you very much, I hope to see you soon.
Your loving grandson,
Bruno(Maria Orlando 8C)
13 May 1943
Sorry that I haven’t written to you since we moved. I really miss you and Grandfather. Why couldn’t we have taken you and grandfather with us to out- with and have left Gretel in Berlin I mean she is a hopeless case, right?
I am really unhappy and angry about the move to out-with. Its nothing like in Berlin and the house is too small. I’d do a anything to move back to Berlin but mother says that we need to stay were your family is. But I just think that is a bunch of mumbo jumbo. This is because you and Grandfather are both in Berlin and you are a part of our family so that proves me right.
I think that the house here at out-with is very disgraceful, because the house is nothing like the one in Berlin and its too small and too stuffy. All I can do here at out-with is sit in my room and watch a fly fly against my window. I really want to do something, do you have any suggestions?
This week I had a swing accident. You see, I was swinging on my new made swing when all of a sudden I fall of. After I had fallen down a man called pavel, who works at our house, helped me up and cared for me. He also insisted that he was a doctor so that was a surprise.
Since I arrived here, I have been thinking about what to do and the only thing which I can do here is explore, for I have no one to play with. When I went outside to explore, I found looked at the plaque on the bench which I had been looking at for weeks now and the only thing it said was “ presented on the occasion of the opening of… out-with camp, June nineteen forty”. I also found out about these big poles which spread out across a field. The problem is that I cant go onto the field because behind the barbed wire there are people. There are also these strange looking metal huts in the distance, I guess those people sleep there. Do yo think its for something else?
The people whom live behind the barbed wire are strange. They wear these types of striped pyjamas and striped caps. Usually the people are adults but i’m sure that there are children there as well, well there must be. What do you think? Another strange thing about these people is that they get yelled at and pushed around by soldiers. I don’t get why they do that to those striped pyjama people. The last thing which I think is kind of unfair is the fact that they get to be on the playing field, they get to have the good side of the land and we only get the house and trees.
Anyway, that’s all the news and questions I have for now. I hope that I will see you again soon and I hope that you wright back as soon as possible so that I can hear about the great news and excitment which is going on back in Berlin.
Your loving grandson,
(Jelle Debruyne 8C)
Out-With, 13th May 1943
How are you and grandfather? How is Berlin? Will you come and see us, in the foreseeable future?
I don’t like Out-With, the house is small and isn’t good for exploration, it has got only two floors, not like the one in Berlin. Outside my window I can see a bench with a plaque with written: “Presented on the occasion of the opening of Out-With camp, June Nineteen forty”. I can also see the tree where two weeks ago I fell from the swing I made but, luckiy I was rescued by Pavel, our waiter.
Father and Mother decided that Gretel and me have to start taking lessons, a private tutor is coming here at Out-With, his name is Herr Lizst. Herr Lizst says that reading and art are useless whilst history and geography are important in life. I don’t agree with him, I told Mr. Lizst that, back in Berlin, we used to perform plays with you and he answered that you are not our teacher.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Your loving grandson,
13th May 2013
how are you doing? How is grandfather? Are you enjoying there in Berlin? I really miss you. I hate it here,the new house is so quiet and boring without you and my friends.
This house stands all on its own in an empty,desolate place and there are no other houses anywhere to be seen which means there would be no other boys to play with. I am alone.
Two days ago one of the servants,Pavel,helped me buld a swing. A couple of hours later I fell off it and the swing hit me on the head and I nearly fainted,but then he came out and brought me in and cleaned it all up and put a bandage on me; it stung very badly but I didn’t cry. He is very kind with me and he told that before coming here he was a doctor! I was so confused: I asked him why he came here to be a servant when he has the abilities of a doctor? That was very strange and I still can’t understand it.
Anyway, I miss my exploration times when we were in the old house,there were lots of things that still need to be discover. One day, when I was much more bored than the other days I went behind the house where It’s forbidden to walk there. When I went there I saw a big forest and I started to run and to search something interesting! A bit further away I saw a big fence. I immediately went there and there were some people (children too)without hair that were wearing grey striped pyjamas and and a hut too. They were working toughly. It was awkward: why do I have to stay here alone? Isolated by everyone?
Father told Gretel and me that we don’t have to go to school because everyday Herr Liszt (our teacher) will come here and teach us. I don’t like him. He just talk about history and history and history. I hate this subject. I want to study geography but he doesn’t want to. He said that history tells us about past events that happened in our world,without it we wouldn’t be here. It’s so boring!
Hope to hear from you soon,
your loving grandson,
How are you? How’s grandfather? I miss you both alot and can’t wait to see you soon.
The new house is the opposite of our old house in Berlin. The new one stands in an empty desolate place and there are no other houses, so i have no friends to play with and i rally miss Daniel, Karl and Martin.
Though on day i saw some children, well they weren’t all children. There were fathers, grandfathers, small boys and big boys.
Next to our house there is a tall fence with enormous bales of barbed wire tangled in spirals and sharp spikes sticking out all the way round.
I have been looking out of my window for months at the garden and the bench with the plaque on it with something written on it, but i never understood what and the tall posts that are huge and made of wood, like telegraph posts.
I actually prefer our house in Berlin, but father says we have to remain here for the foreseeable future and i hope is not alot.
Your loving grandson,
13th May 1943
how are you? I miss you so much and i miss our old plays we did altogether and the fabulous costumes you made for us.
You know what, the new house sucks! I hate it here, there’s no one to play with and nothing to do except wondering about in the house.
The house is just three floors high, nothing compared to our old one, it’s dusty, old and far from the city.
There is only one positive thing in all this: there’s a very big garden where we can play but as i already told you, there’s no one to play with!
There’s also a bench a plaque on it with an inauguration date of a place but I didn’t really pay attention to it. The strangest things are the fences covered in spiky barbed wire which Mother and Father told me strictly not to go near it.
What’s even more strange is that there are houses inside, horrible low huts with people in it and some of these huts have chimneys with smoke constantly coming out. Maybe they are cooking food to eat after work like we do.
These people are very thin though, they work all day and wear always the same clothes: striped pyjamas, no shoes and striped cloth caps plus they are all shaved with no hair on their heads. There are kids, men, old men, grandfathers, dads and when a soldier shouts to them they obey straight away.
These people are very strange because Mother and Father have never invited them to dinner.
Father says they are strange creatures that don’t live anywhere so must be kept under strict guard.
Anyway Mother and Father said Gretel and me we must restart school so they hired a private tutor to teach us Geography and History. The private tutor’s name is Herr Lizst. He knows a lot about Germany’s history but doesn’t want me to learn about the middle ages because he says it’s useless to know them.
Well I hope to hear from you soon Grandmother
Your loving grandson
13th May 1943
How are you and Grandfather? I am actually not okay, this place is so boring. My best friends miss me. Every single thing I lived in Berlin is missing!
This house is totally boring is big and huge, and there is no one that I can play with… I just miss my life at Berlin; I just don’t like Out-with…
I went to explore other day and I found a really strange place: there was barbed wire, fences and huts. There are lots of people that live there, and I don’t know why but they are dressed in striped pajamas, it was really strange. There were even lots of boys over there and I think that is no fear to me, because they are with their friends, and I am in other side of fence in my self, with nobody that I can play!
Ah! Now I don’t go to school, but I have a tutor that comes to our house. He is very boring, we do just Geography and History, and I don’t like it. Actually I hate it, mama says that I shouldn’t say ‘HATE’… but still I don’t like it. Sorry, but I need to stop I will write you again…
P.s Come to see us!!
Your loving Grandson Bruno
Letters to Hitler; extracts from one woman’s correspondence: