Living in the Tensions: Camus, Qohelet, and the Confrontation with the Absurd


Justin Morgan

Publication Date

January 2010

Document Type



English Language and Literature


Dr. Prior was a reader on the committee for this thesis.


This thesis examines the spiritual dimensions of Albert Camus's "cycle of the absurd"--The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger, and Caligula--by paralleling Camus's absurd vision of life to the various themes of the ancient text of Hebrew-wisdom literature, Ecclesiastes. Both Camus and Qohelet (the main speaker of Ecclesiastes) describe the absurdity of human existence that arises from the limitations of human reason, the futility of human action, and the certainty of death. Although Camus (an atheist) and Qohelet (a theist) begin with different assumptions regarding the existence of God--the very Being who potentially gives meaning and clarity to his creation--their similar discoveries and conclusions reveal an unlikely compatibility between theistic and atheistic attitudes towards the human situation. While Camus and Qohelet recognize that the world disappoints and cannot be explained by human reasoning, and is therefore absurd, they each conclude that uncertainty, mortality, and human limitations may prompt a certain liberation and solace that allow them to move beyond the absurd and affirm their existence. This curious parallel between the ancient Hebraic wisdom of Ecclesiastes and Camus's modern existential attitudes in the "cycle of the absurd" show that a profound awareness of the absurd may compel the individual to live authentically and passionately despite the seeming unreasonableness of his or her life.