The Creative Openings Of The Outsider English Literature Essay


The Outsider and Metamorphosis have significant impact creating openings, which are associated with the themes of Isolation and Unexpectedness. Both novels concentrate on the different circumstances that two individuals react to in the society they live in. The novels concentrate on the protagonists, Mersault in The Outsider and Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis and their adaptability to change and circumstance, giving little importance to the external environment. In The Outsider, we are presented with Mersault's reaction to his mother's death and in Metamorphosis, we are presented with Gregor's sudden transformation into a monstrous vermin.

In both the novels, the authors seem to explore isolation and unexpectedness. Mersault in The Outsider and Gregor in Metamorphosis seem to be loners and solitary beings. This character trait, common to both protagonists of both novels is not revealed after a fair part of the story is complete, but in the very beginning. Mersault is presented as an introvert, he does not seem to enjoy social contact. This is seen in his reluctance to engage with the soldier on the bus to Marengo; 'I said, "Yes" so as not to have to talk anymore' Gregor's solitude and the way in which he looks at life seems to be caused by his job as a travelling salesman. This is seen in his dissatisfactory response about his job; 'casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends', 'irritating work'. The theme of isolation seems to be explored in a well planned manner. The authors present both novels in two different styles, sharing a common theme of unexpectedness. The theme of unexpectedness is explored in the beginnings of both novels and then layered by the theme of isolation. For instance in The Outsider, Camus presents the readers with 'Mother died today', an absolutely astounding line, leaving the readers in confusion. As the novel progresses further, the theme of unexpectedness seems to be dispersed. This is transparent in Mersault's different character traits, almost absurd, when dealing with his surroundings in Marengo, where he goes for his mother's funeral, especially when he refuses to see his mother for the last time, by responding 'No' to the caretaker. In Metamorphosis, Gregor is similar to Mersault in his approach to life, that is to say, both protagonists question the very purpose of human existence. There is also an element of futility that is established in the way Mersault thinks. Kafa infuses the portrayal of human's life struggle becoming futile, through Mersault. This is realized in the beginning of Metamorphosis, when Gregor accepts his miserable existence, that of a vermin, unable to move and communicate with his family. The difference or rather the ambiguity between the absurdity in The Outsider and Metamorphosis is that in The Outsider, Camus brings the idea of life as meaningless, a nihilist approach. This is probably Camus's approach to life. However, in Metamorphosis, the idea of life as absurd is reflected clearly in Gregor's way of thinking. The theme of unexpectedness seems to be revealed throughout the novel, in different ways though. For instance, the very beginning of Metamorphosis introduces Gregor and his transformation, which is indeed very much unexpected. This is followed by the introduction of Gregor's taxing lifestyle from which he developed his approach to life. In The Outsider, as mentioned previously, Camus introduces different character traits of Mersault like that of emotional indifference which links back to the theme of unexpectedness, well layered by the theme of isolation. 'Fifty miles from Algiers', is a good example of a quote from The Outsider, to relate to the theme of isolation. This quote reinforces Mersault's distance from his mother. In Metamorphosis, isolation is layered on the unexpectedness in the very opening. Upon introduced to Gregor and his transformation, his isolation is realized through Kafka's detailed mentioning about his quotidian lifestyle and how Gregor becomes isolated from his family, who reject him ultimately. Kafka does not miss to give detailed descriptions, such as 'he was lying on his back as hard as armor plate' and 'he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch shaped ribs'. The importance of the use of detail, especially in the opening of the novel is that it relates back to the absurd natured opening, and the startling images make descriptions visual. In The Outider, the detail given to the setting contrasts with the lack of emotions in Mersault, emotions commonly possessed by others. For instance 'The lid was on, but a row of shiny screws, which hadn't yet been tightened down, stood out against the walnut stained wood' shows Mersault's indifference in that he tends to concentrate on the features of the coffin rather than his mother in it. This further relates back to his detactcment established in the earlier part of the novel, where 'giving up my Sunday' would be the reason for Mersault not visiting his mother. Another significant aspect, common to the openings of both the novels is that the authors seem to continue to explore the themes of segregation and isolation from an earlier establishment. For instance, in The Outsider, Camus seems to have explored the motifs of isolation and unexpectedness, which synchronises well with absurdity, in The Myth Of Sisyphus. The Myth Of Sisyphus is a Greek tale about Sisyphus who was condemed for his misdeeds, to the eternal task of rolling a large boulder up a hill, which would eventually roll down again. The idea of absurdity seems to have established here and is further explored through the themes of isolation and unexpectedness in The Outsider by Camus. However, in Metamorphosis, Kafka seems to explore in further an idea of low self regard and mental negativity probably, which can be thought of as a reflection of his own past. Kafka had a unusual past, especially his relationship with his father. Kafka in Metamorphosis introduces Gregor's transformation in the very beginning, which may have been an potrayal of Kafka's sub consciousness by Kafka himself. At this point, not only the theme of isolation and unexpectedness are clearly visible directly through the author's eyes, but also a sudden realization that the entire novel, The Metamorphosis might be a metaphor, once again an ironically isolated circumstance. The themes of isolation and unexpectedness is also explored through the idea of liberty. In The Outsider, Mersault lacks ethicality. He takes his liberty in excess, which is not necessarily a positive mannerism. This is well reflected in his reluctant behaviour when the warden was speaking to him; 'The warden spoke again.But I wasn't really listening anymore.' Mersault seems to think he should react to his surroundings in the appropriate manner as he is pressured. For instance, during his visit to the people's home in Marengo, Mersault restricts the liberty he is used to, as everything around is seemingly forefully pressuring to him, this is clearly depicted in Mersault's reaction to the warden, 'I stood up without saying anything and he led the way to the door'. In The Metamorphosis, the libery is more a confinement. 'I have got the torture of travelling, worrying about changing trains, earing miserable food at all hours, constantly seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate'. This quote reflects Gregor's attitude, especially towards his liberty. He complains about his job and picks it out as the main reason for his liberty being confined. He further curses 'To the devil with it all', where an ambiguity is established, for the devil established in the beginning of the novel as the transformation, is once again reinforced here, conveying the metaphorical nature of the novel infused with slight decadence.

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The novels are undoubtedly very much similar in motifs, the central ideas of Absurdity and Existentialism existing as the common ideas. These impact creating beginnings lay a firm foundation to the rest of the novels, leaving behind the readers to think about the different approaches of the authors to the central ideas through different motifs.