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Existentialism is a vast and detailed philosophy that supports a diverse collection of responses and solutions to the existentialist attitude, which is what an individual feels when confronted by the absurdity of life. In “Eveline”, James Joyce tells a story about a nineteen year old girl that is about to leave home. She has fallen in love with a sailor named Frank who promises to take her with him to Buenos Aires. She must make a decision on whether to stay with her father or leave with the man she barely knows. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka narrates the consequences of a metamorphosis in which the main character, a man named Gregor Samsa, is transformed into a giant insect. In Albert Camus’, “The Guest”, Daru is struggling with a dilemma. He is left with the decision to give the prisoner his freedom or give him to the police. Daru has to make a decision for the Arab, but he refuses to make one for someone else since it is against his beliefs. Throughout these three stories, the characters experience existentialism in some form through their choices.
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Eveline Hill sits in her house and looks out to the street while thinking back to her childhood, when she played with children in a field now taken over with new homes. She thinks about her abusive father that she lives with, and the idea of freeing herself from her hard life. She needs two jobs to support herself and her father. The time comes for Eveline to face a difficult decision, remain at home with her father, or leave Dublin with Frank. Frank wants to marry her and live with together in Buenos Aires. She agreed to leave with him without anybody knowing.
She hears an organ grinder outside on her way to meet Frank. It reminded her of a song that was played the day her mother died and the promise she made to look after her family. At the dock frank is ready to embark on a ship with her, but Eveline’s subconscious was not ready to leave her family, home, and promises behind. Joyce writes a line to make sure the readers know about Eveline’s position as a female, saying she was “passive, like a helpless animal,” a position that men of that time assumed women were always in.
Just like in Eveline, The Metamorphosis by Kafka gives an impression that Gregor is devoted to his job and family. He is the main support for his family because no one else works. Gregor devoted himself to a life of work where he followed every order and expectation to the smallest degree. When he finds himself transformed into a gigantic insect, he makes work more important then everything else, even in his new state. He starts to panic because ‘the next train went at seven o’clock; to catch that he would need to hurry like mad and his samples weren’t even packed up’ Gregor’s changed identity is a way for Kafka to subtlety attack society. He believed society was becoming impersonal resulting in a lack of individualism and excessive materialism. “At that time Gregor’s sole desire was to do his utmost to help the family to forget as soon as possible the catastrophe that had overwhelmed the business and thrown them all into a state of complete despair.” The narrator goes over details about Gregor and the family. Gregor overhears his father talking about the family’s financial situation. The father’s business failed five years earlier, which explains Gregor’s vital role in the family as the moneymaker. Gregor feels responsible for the family since he is its only source of income. This explains why his biggest concern after being transformed into a bug is if he will be fired for not going to work on time.
These events play a big role in Gregor feeling of alienated. Gregor travels a lot because of his job so he cannot make relationships with people resulting in his lack of friends. His mother tells his boss that Gregor spends most of his nights in the house reading the newspaper or checking the train schedules. Existentialism ties in with this story because people have an individual side and a side that deals with society. The choices we make must remain equal to keep the balance. If you were to choose yourself over society, you would lose the support of society. If you were to choose society, you would lose your individuality. At first Gregor chooses society over himself, which made him like a bug in a sense, becoming another drone. After actually transforming into a bug, he is forced to reevaluate himself to gain his individuality back, resulting in society abandoning him. Through Gregor’s’ journey, his family became involved in society. Gregor eventually learned to live for himself instead of society, but it was too late for him to become a whole person. Due to Gregor’s lonely life, he begins to look for fun in his bug state but nothing works. He gives up. By doing so, Gregor fails at living in his new form by ignoring the purpose of being an insect and dies.
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In “The Guest”, Daru does not know which decision to make when it comes to the Arab. He needs to decide whether he should send him to jail or if he should let him go. He does not want to deal with making a decision. In the middle of the night, Daru thinks the Arab is escaping: “He is running away, he merely thought. Good riddance!” This proves that the schoolmaster would rather let the Arab escape so he does not have to deal with his decision. Daru wants the prisoner to escape so he could go back to his normal life free of difficult decisions. When Daru asks the prisoner, “Why did you kill him?” he was hoping the answer would help him with his decision. His problem is not really the decision of whether or not to send the Arab to jail, but it is more of an inner conflict. He believes in human rights, and that individuals choose who they are by freedom of choice.
Having the decision to set the Arab free or turn him in leaves him with a problem. Each decision leaves him with a problem because if he turns him in, the prisoner will think of him as an enemy and may try to seek revenge. If Daru sets him free, he will become a traitor to country. Daru decides to leave the choice up to the Arab because he decides to follow his personal beliefs instead of society’s beliefs. Because of his decision, Daru is threatened by a message left on the blackboard saying: “You handed over our brother. You will pay for this”. Even though he acted according to his own beliefs, he did not make the right decision according to society.
Existentialism is the problem of the individual who must accept ultimate responsibility for their actions without any knowledge of what is right, wrong, good, or bad. Eveline faces a difficult decision, to remain at home and continue working to support her father or leave Dublin with Frank. The Metamorphosis shows the existential view that individuals make their own choices. It is the individuals’ job to keep a balance between work and play. The Metamorphosis shows the idea that if you choose to dedicate your life entirely to work, you are a droning insect, but if you devote your life to leisure, it is no better. A balance has to be found. “The Guest” is a work showing off the belief of existentialism. It explains how life is based on an individual’s choices. Daru is left with the decision to give the prisoner his freedom or to turn him in. He wants to be left without a choice, but that is its own choice. This becomes clear to Daru at the end of the story. Daru wants to make the right choice because he has to be able to live with the choice he makes. That is one of the main themes of existentialism. Decisions are only harder to make, because you never know if you made the right one. Every decision we make builds who we are. We always have a choice, it is impossible not to have one.
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