Skip over navigation

The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus

The Absurd Man: Don Juanism

An Absurd Reasoning: Absurd Freedom

The Absurd Man: Don Juanism, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

In the second part of the book, Camus tries to continue his discussion on a more practical level. While the first part carried an abstract discussion of the concept of the absurd and the consequences of living with it, this part provides a number of examples of lives that embrace Camus's principles of revolt, freedom, and passion (see An Absurd Reasoning: Absurd Freedom ). Here he gives us the seducer ("Don Juanism"), the actor, and the conqueror, and then he discusses the role of the writer in the subsequent part. Camus is careful to note that though these are examples, they are not necessarily meant to be emulated. He does not want to hold them up as ideals, but wants only to use them to clarify the position he is discussing.

Camus prefaces his analysis of these examples with a few remarks as to what they all hold in common. The absurd man relies only on his courage not to hope for anything more than life has given him and on his reasoning that tells him that all his actions are limited to having consequences in this world, and not in a world beyond.

The absurd man is amoral (which is not to say that he is immoral). Either morality comes from God or it is invented by humans in order to justify certain kinds of behavior. The absurd man cannot believe in God, and he has no need of justification. He is guided only by his own integrity, and integrity does not need to be guided by a moral code. Because he is free from morality, and thus from the concepts of guilt or wrong-doing, Camus describes the absurd man as "innocent."

His first example of the absurd man is the famous seducer, Don Juan. He moves from woman to woman, seducing each one in turn with the same tactics—the same maneuvers—with which he seduced his previous lovers. He never stays with one woman too long before moving on to his next conquest.

Camus dismisses all accusations that Don Juan is desperately seeking true love, or that he is melancholy, or that he is unimaginatively repetitive, or that he is callously selfish, or that he will be a miserable old man. All these accusations seem to assume that Don Juan is ultimately hoping to achieve transcendence, to find something that will take him beyond his day-to-day seductions, and that he is totally incapable of finding that transcendence.

On the contrary, Camus portrays Don Juan as a man who lives for the passions of the present moment. He lives without hope of finding any transcendent significance in his life, and he recognizes the meaninglessness of his seductions. He is not looking for true love; he wants only to experience the continual repetition of his conquests. He is not melancholy; that would suppose that he hopes for something more or that he doesn't know all that he needs to know. He is not unimaginatively repetitive in his seductions; he is interested in quantity, not quality, and so if the same techniques always get him the desired result there is no reason to alter them. He is not callously selfish; he may be selfish in his own way, but he does not seek to possess or control those whom he seduces. He will not suffer the consequences of his actions; he lives in full awareness of who he is and of where he is going. Therefore, old age and impotence can hardly catch him off-guard.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us