Time is a progression of the plot or storyline and an effective tool that builds the personalities of the various characters in the two novels, Metamorphosis and the Outsider. This essay first discusses the linear progression of time in The Outsider and then Metamorphosis. In The Outsider, Camus begins the story in the middle of the protagonist's life with a telling incident, the death of Meursault's mother. "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know"  . Meursault treats this incident with a sense of the inevitable, thus signifying that death is yet another event in time or the calendar of life, nothing else. Meursault is reprimanded as an average ordinary man whose existence, not life, is merely marked from day to day by work at the office and a meal at home. His interaction with his neighbours or his girlfriend is also mere representation of 'time' spent and not valued or enjoyed or seen as important.
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In the book The Outsider the time is represented linearly wherein we have the narrator, Meursault, narrating how his life takes an unpredictable turn after a certain incident. The story begins in the present, where the narrator conveys to the reader that his mother has died that day. But at certain times in the book we have the narrator making references to the past. But these are not considered to be in the flashback because they do not describe any event that has not been mentioned in the book before.
On the other hand, the second type of representation of time is that of a flashback. In this technique, the author develops the story in such a way that events of the past are described by the narrator in the present to give the readers a feel of what has happened in the past. This is an altogether different concept from linear narration. The significance of such a narrative is that Camus describes Meursault's life in a simple but lucid narration. Camus also makes it an effort to convey to the reader in proper detail how the incident which changed Meursault's life took place. "When I imagined the sound of the first little waves under the soles of my feet, the feel of the water on my body and the freedom it would give me, I'd suddenly realize how closed in I was by my prison walls"  . The linear time as represented in the lines above, thus, helps the reader to judge the innocence of the protagonist. In other words, it can be said that time represented in a linear way has helped simplify the complexity of the plot.
In Metamorphosis, Kakfa uses some elements of flashback narration in order to enhance the grief and pain suffered by Gregor Samsa in his meaningless life. This book revolves around the character of Samsa and his prolonged pain. Time is an element which introduces the reader to the different problems faced by Samsa. The passage of time and Samsa's continuously exacerbating condition is juxtaposed to create a tragic effect in the play. Franz Kakfa has cleverly dealt with the condition of the protagonist with time. Throughout the course of the book, the reader is constantly made aware of the aggravated state of the 'murderous insect'. In Metamorphosis, flashback is used in order to let the reader be cognizant with the past life of Gregor Samsa. Franz Kafka has excellently used subtlety through the flashback technique to enlighten the reader about the harsh criticism and problems he has suffered from his family and colleagues. "Gregor's serious injury, which afflicted him for more than a month seemed to have brought home even to his father that despite his present lamentable and repugnant shape Gregor was a member of his family, who ought not to be treated as an enemy, but that on the contrary family duty required them to swallow their disgust and put up with him, simply put up with him"  . Thus, the purpose of the blended representation of time is to create an influential effect on the reader while reading Samsa's tragic story.
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Looking at each book in detail, there are many instances wherein time represented by degradation. This transformation to a lower state is considered a negative sign for the hero. Degradation leads to destruction or, in simple words is considered as the beginning of the end of the road. Degradation could be of different types or in different elements. Degradation is not only limited to the worsening of the health of an individual. It could also be the worsening of a relationship between people or the abasement of the fate of a person. It is partially an abstract idea which is not directly seen through the naked eyes. It is felt, noticed or concluded through observations.
Degradation in Metamorphosis is evident throughout the plot. The first sentence of the story, "When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect"  is the first sign of degradation that is brought to the notice of the reader. The phrase 'troubled dreams' is indicative of the existing problems in Samsa's life. The further degradation of Samsa's problems is seen from the fact that he has transformed into an insect overnight. The passage of the night has worsened Samsa's plight.
When Samsa gets transformed into the deadly insect, he is unable to come to terms with the tragedy which has befallen upon him. His words' "How suddenly this sort of attack can take one! Only last night I felt fine, my parents can testify to that, or rather last night I did have a slight premonition"  support the fact that the sudden transformation was shocking although he did have a foreboding of the approaching evil. The 'premonition' that Samsa had the previous night is suggestive of the fact that Samsa sensed the problems in his life degrading with the passing time.
Another example of degradation as expressed through time is seen in the line, "Gregor spent the days and nights almost entirely without sleep"  . Here again, the 'days and nights' of sleeplessness are an indication of Samsa's condition worsening than before. Gregor's family is represented as a typical middle class whose source of income is its son. Being the sole breadwinner, his family depended too much on him. But when tragedy struck his father who was always harsh to him no matter what he did, was now even more disgusted with the condition of his son. His sister was the only one who cared for him initially, but as time passed she too started to get irritated with her brother's condition.
In The Outsider, Meursault is a man indifferent to what is happening around in the world. But throughout the book Camus has shown it is wrong to misunderstand him as a man with no emotions. "I then wanted a cigarette. But I hesitated because I didn't know if I could smoke in front of mother. I thought it over, it really didn't matter"  . He is characterised as an altogether different person whose thoughts differ from those of the whole world.
Firstly, Meursault and his girlfriend Marie are seen to be enjoying each other's company. Physical pleasure is the only joy which Meursault gains from Marie. He has no intentions of marrying her, although he 'does not mind' marrying her. When Meursault is imprisoned for murder, his relationship with Marie is strained. Marie comes to meet Meursault only once but as time passes, she stops visiting him in prison. Here, we see the degradation in human relationship with the passage of time.
Secondly, later in the story we see Meursault's health in the prison becoming a concern. He is not able to sleep peacefully anymore. Months have passed since he has seen Marie. He 'craves' to be with Marie, but still holds his principles true till the last breath of his life. The chaplain who visits him cannot institute his belief in God. He does not admit his fault at not showing emotion at his mother's funeral. He knows that he did care for his mother and did not want her to die. No one cares about him anymore and his life has become meaningless.
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On reading both the books the reader discovers that whether the author uses linear time progression or flashback, the heroes of both texts find themselves in a decadent situation. Meursault, if one looks at him through the same eyes of society, is a misfit and doomed to be a no gooder. But for Meursault in his own eyes, he is triumphant and victorious for he remained faithful to his own principles but his world did not recognize him. Samsa decayed and died but it left his family transformed to the point of forgetting all that Samsa represented. Thus time sees a change or transformation that is subjective to the reader's interpretation.