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The Roles Of Gregor Samsa And Meursault English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2392 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Stasis is Greek for "standstill." It is the condition of changelessness and/or motionlessness. A state of balance or equilibrium. Metamorphosis on the other hand is a marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function. Metamorphosis and Stasis are both contradictory themes used effectively in the books the stranger and Metamorphosis.

L'Étranger meaning the stranger published in 1942 is Albert Camus one of the most popular and renowned works till date. The plot revolves around a man called Meursault who has always gone through life without any excitement for future; no belief in god and indifference to life's all joys and sorrows. Metamorphosis on the other hand is one of the most widely read and renowned masterpiece by Franz Kafka. The story is about a young man Gregor Samsa who, transforms overnight into a vermin, a giant beetle like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home. Both the books start with a startling and bizarre first sentence, which tells us a lot about the story and the protagonists. Metamorphosis starts with " When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed into a vermin", not a usual happening in someone's life, the transformation of the character Gregor from a man to one of the most repellent insects may seem exaggerated and ridiculous. While the stranger starts with the statement "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know." A very startling sentence indeed. On the surface, these books may give the feel of being an extremely simple though carefully planned and written books. In reality, they are dense and rich creation, full of undiscovered meanings and formal qualities.

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The main character of The Stranger, Meursault is not a hero. He does not believe in love and has no "true" love affair, and the pursuit of money and power never enters into his life and the story. Much like the author Camus himself, does not believe in God and is to a large extent what you might call an atheist and an existentialist. He is often the narrator to the story or the main character of the narrative. The author through Meursault to explain the readers his ideas on the Absurd. Absurdism according to Wikipedia is a philosophy stating that the efforts of humanity to find meaning in the universe ultimately fail (and hence are absurd), because no such meaning exists, at least in relation to the individual. "The Absurd", therefore, is commonly used in philosophical discourse to refer to the clash between the human search for meaning and the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean "logically impossible," but rather "humanly impossible."

Meursault is a flat character and does not change much till the end of the book. Meursault, throughout the book is portrayed as aloof, detached, and unemotional person. He does not think much about events or their consequences, and rarely shows any feeling when in situations which would, for most people, bring out strong emotions. After his mother's death he sheds no tears; seems to show no emotions expected of him. He displays only physical feelings for his girlfriend, Marie Cardona like when she asks him whether he loves her he says no. He shows no regret at all for killing an Arab, 'I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.'

His aloofness and indifference to the society's laws might be the reason why he is considered the outcast in the society. From his actions and narrations it is easy to conclude that Meursault, The Stranger to society is an existentialist, willing to accept his life as it happens.

'Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? Couldn't he see, couldn't he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too.'

He is an Anti-hero at its best. His only good quality is his honesty. Though he may not believe in God, he cannot lie and refuses to show emotions or feelings he does not feel. His inability to express deep emotion at the death of his maman and repentance at killing the Arab condemns him in the eye of the law and society. From the book it can be inferred that he is punished not for killing the Arab but for not crying at his mothers funeral. I believe that meursault exists, as he is, not trying to be anyone but himself.

We might sometimes wonder why is Meursault like this? The answer lies in the history. The book was written after the two World Wars. It was the time when people had lost more than they ever had. There was no hope and no dream left in the hearts of these people who had suffered the wrath of war. The only goal of life of these people was survival. And even that survival of life was empty and meaningless. This lead people to question life and meaning of human existence. Meursault though shown, unaware of the absurdity of human existence, it yet colors his actions. He kills the Arab because of the effect of Sun upon him. To him it is meaningless. His disbelief in God is apparent in the sentence 'I had only a little time left and I didn't want to waste it on God'. He believed that death was the ultimate truth of life. 'Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter.' For meursault only the physical aspects of life were real and so he didn't believe in love and god. He cannot believe in religion, as it talks about god whose existence he cannot be sure of and it might even be the society's way of keeping order in the human kind. He cannot believe in love, as he cannot be sure of whether it really exists or not. The Stranger, through Meursault gives us an interesting insight in the mind of an existentialist, Albert Camus, who will not change even if the society condemns him for it.

The title, Metamorphosis itself tells us a lot about the plot of the book and even the main theme of the book. We can easily conclude that the book is about some kind of change or transformation. The change in this book is that of Gregor's transformation from a traveling salesman to a vermin and also through the transformation of his ideology and beliefs. It is not clear in the book as to how and why does he change into a vermin. Though it is hinted that it may be because he might have committed some sexual or financial misdeeds. From another perspective, the transformation to an insect can be a symbol of our own confusion and despair with the absurdity of the world and the human existence.

The book starts with his metamorphosis. It is shocking to see that the first thought that comes to Gregor's mind is not how the change happened and why but how he is going to go to work. It shows the significance of following society's set of rules and work in his life. Nearly everything about Gregor's existence prior to his physical transformation was already insect-like as he scurried about, almost undetectable, and performed various useless functions for the larger "hive" of society.

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Gregor works as a traveling salesman, a job that he abhors and wants to get rid off, an employment to which he had resigned himself for as long as necessary to pay off his parents' debts. It is also hinted that he is a lazy and dishonest employee. It makes the reader wonder that maybe Gregor's transformation is actually a metaphor to show the immoral person he is. Seems that he finally has his wish. He is finally relieved and free from the job he doesn't want. But the problem now is that though freed from his job, Gregor is now a burden to his family and is kept locked in his room. The writer, through Gregor thus tries to say that people are only valuable as long as they earn a salary. This is also a story of the collapse of justice and mercy, even among those people who are expected to be most fair and compassionate. The family who gregor gave everything. This novella with its peculiar imagery talks about dehumanization, estrangement and oppression of individuality. By showing how much Gregor's identity is affected by the others' treatment of him, the story shows how identity is socially constructed, rather than an inborn trait.

Before the change in Samsa the family roles are somewhat disorganized. Mr. Samsa, Gregor's father, is supposed to be heading and taking care of the family, but gregor is the one who actually does that. Gregor's life and individuality is imprisoned by his family because he is the one who makes money. Thus, with maybe the exception of his sister, the family seems to treat him not as a member of the family but as a source of income. With Gregor's transformation into a bug, the rest of the Samsas return to their traditional family roles.

Gregor seems to change not only physically but also in other ways during the course of the novella. His metamorphosis has a rippling effect on the other characters as they modify their own behavior in response to his new form. These transformations draw attention to the ways that people change under pressure, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally as well, to the point where they may no longer recognize themselves. While Gregor's initial transformation into a vermin may not be in anyone's hands, his transformation as an individual shows how the other characters have an equally transformative impact on Gregor through their ill treatment of him. Gregor's behavior as an insect brings out how the other characters and in general how we humans behave in an animalistic ways. The change of his bedroom to a storage closet also shows how the family has come to regard him. "Into a room in which Gregor ruled the bare walls all alone, no human being beside Grete was ever likely to set foot." (The Metamorphosis, Chapter 2, pg. 34)

As the story progresses, Gregor maintains his human intelligence and feeling, despite his animal body. Gregor continues to change after his transformation into a vermin, as his new body influences his ideology and life. Initially, He tries to come in terms with the change in him and his surrounding, but sadly never does. Never coming to terms with his metamorphosis, he struggles with intense feelings of guilt as if his inability to support his family were his own fault. There is always his feeling of guilt throughout the book of not being able to fulfill his duty of providing for his family like his feeling of inability to not provide his sister with a new piano. Guilt, it turns out, is deadly, as Gregor realizes at the end that his life is the only thing keeping the family from a better life, when he mistakenly hears his family's talk about getting rid of him. The final blow comes when he Hearing Grete's music and feels, "as if the way were opening before him to the unknown nourishment he craved" (37). He is gravely mistaken to think that he can connect with Grete by expressing his appreciation for her music, and the stage is set for his complete dismissal and condemnation by his family. He is essentially given a death sentence. 'I won't pronounce the name of my brother in front of this monster, and so all I say is: we have to try and get rid of it. We've done everything humanly possible to take care of it and to put up with it; I don't think anyone can blame us in the least.'(The Metamorphosis, Chapter 3, pg. 51). He dies for them just as he lived for them: out of guilt.

By the end we can see that Gregor realizes that there is no way to freedom in life and in the end one is always a slave. We cannot do what we like with our bodies. To an extent our bodies are owned by our families and by our society and the rules of society. Ultimately we are dehumanized. Gregor if we see has lived a life similar to an insect. The society and family curbing his individuality and The only means of escape this slavery and dehumanisation turns out to be death. Death here like in 'The stranger' is perceived to be the ultimate truth and also freedom from this 'absurd' human existence.

This Novella is a satire on the traditional family structures by showing how easily the Samsas dispose of their responsibility to Gregor, who, despite his transformation, is a member of the family. The most significant consequence of Gregor's transformation is not his insect form, but actually his loss of language; without language, Gregor loses the power to express who he is and control his own life. The devolution of Gregor's room from a human bedroom to a storage closet reflects how his connection to human society deteriorates as the story progresses. Kafka through his dispassionate and ironic writing style conveys to us a lot more then just the change in Gregor. The Character of Gregor and the events that lead to his transformation and the behavior of people surrounding him tells us a lot about how giddy and fickle the mind of a man is. How everything even the behavior of man changes in time with change.

The meaning of the name Samsa In German is 'I am alone'. The character of Samsa is at times thought to be Kafka himself. It is worth noting that the a's in Samsa and Kafka are in the same line and while Samsa contains 2s's Kafka contains 2k's. This novella gives us an idea of the life in times of Kafka and also the life of Kafka. Kafka had an autocratic father who expected a lot from him and a mother who took only his fathers side. He also felt the constant burden of familial obligations and craved freedom much like his character Samsa himself. In a way 'The Metamorphosis' is Kafka's autobiography.


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