The Rebel

The RebelThe Rebel

The Rebel is an essay book written by Albert Camus in 1951 which explores the natural tendency of humans to rebel or revolt.

The book outlines the metaphysical evolution of rebellion in society throughout history. He borrows concepts and uses the examples of Marquis de SadeFriedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and many more to paint a clear picture of man’s fascination with rebellion.

The book starts with a definition of the basic concepts. Camus explains what rebellion is, the different types of rebellion,and instances of rebellion throughout history. He also touches on the relationship between rebellion and murder, and poses the question of whether or not there are situations where murder is justified.

Camus wrote the book as if it was a time machine, and each chapter discusses rebellion throughout history, in chronological order. He starts with the ancient times, touching upon instances of rebellion depicted in Greek and Roman mythology, and the Biblical setting. Since time immemorial, mankind always had an inclination for rebellion. Even Adam and Eve rebelled against God and deliberately disobeyed him.

Interesting enough, Camus explored the relationship between rebellion and nihilism. Nihilism is a lack of belief in life’s meaning in some form or the other, and rebellion, as Camus suggests, is a direct result of this disbelief. That man tends to rebel when they find a certain aspect of life meaningless. Camus discusses and expounds on the concepts of nihilism, particularly those of Nietzsche.

Camus also dissects famous rebellions throughout history such as the French Revolution and Communist Revolution. He explores each event in these revolutions, the individuals involved in each incident, and relates it to his study on the textbook manifestations of rebellion.

He asserts that in these two revolutions, the cause of rebellion was idealism, or a good cause. But somewhere along the line, this idealism gets warped and corrupted and in some way, developed a self-serving agenda. He also discusses the differences between rebellion and revolution. To Camus, rebellion is rooted in reason, while revolution has elements of irrationality.

After a lengthy discussion on the relationship between rebellion and history, Camus shifts his attention to art. He notices the stark similarities between man’s desire for artistic creation and his desire for rebellion. Both stems from man’s existential desire for individuality and affirmation that his life is meaningful.

The book then turns its attention to the 20th century, which is, in the author’s eyes, a time of great instability. With the social, religious and political wars plaguing the world, Camus again questions the reader about the circumstances of murder, and whether murder could ever be justified, such as when fighting for a good cause.

Overall, the book comes from a good place. The author’s fascination with man’s natural tendency to rebel is very much justified. In Camus’ eyes, rebellion, in its purest form, is a good thing. It usually stems from man’s dissatisfaction with his current satisfaction, and the desire to rebel is caused by hope for a better situation. Throughout history, man has risen up against and rebelled, and most of these are justified. Men rebel when oppressed, when their individuality and belief system is suppressed, when he has a desire for something better.

The author’s argument for rebellion’s pure nature is certainly understandable. He has given enough evidence to the fact that rebellion starts out pure. Rebellion is a result of an idealistic view of things, that something better will come if they rise up against their current situation. Most rebellions throughout history usually start with a good cause.

However, in all rebellions and revolutions that existed throughout history, rebellion usually becomes corrupted as the cause is always joined by people who use the rebellion for their own agenda. Usually the person that corrupts the purity of the rebellion simply takes advantage of the rebellion and doesn’t believe in the underlying ideologies of the rebellion in the first place.

While the thought of rebellion being a good thing might be a good thing, it is a good topic for discussion in classrooms, and even in personal conversations. Although the book is essentially one very long essay, it is a very good read. Camus is very organized in his disclosure of information, so it’s very easy to follow.

As for whether or not murder is ever justified, the arguments are very open to interpretation.

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