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To begin with, in The Woman in the Dunes, Nikki Junpei was forcefully placed in an isolated area. He was alienated not only from the world but from himself as well. In the beginning, Junpei had a life that consisted of creating his identity or make a new and exciting discovery to provide his life with meaning. “[â€¦] that of discovering a new type. When this happens, the discoverers’ name appears in the illustrated encyclopedias of entomologyâ€¦.His efforts are crowned with success is his name is perpetuated in the memory of his fellow men by being associated with an insect. (Abe 10)” Now that he is in a new habitat with nothing but sand, his ability to give his life meaning is a lot more difficult or impossible. Because he could no longer “make” his identity, being put into such an alienated area, he loses his identity. From this alienation all his life’s work and meaning is reduced to nothing. All his work to become a renowned scientist has now failed and he continues to fail until he struggles in the end for a true identity.
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In resemblance, Kafka also shows the protagonist’s distant connection to the world with the use of withdrawal. First of all, Gregor only seems to pay attention to the fact that he is not maneuver go to work. As he is does this, he states, “What a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen. Travelling day in and day out. (2).” From this we see that Gregor’s isolation is the reason for his social withdrawal, and since he is considered the primary caretaker of his family. With this responsibility he isolates himself from everyone including his family to focus on his job. Unlike Junpei in The Woman in the Dunes, Gregor does in fact have an identity, but it is not completely his identity. Gregor’s identity is actually based upon his family’s expectations. In the novel it is also stated that when Gregor arrives home, he goes straight to his room, and locks his door. With this usual procedure of locking the door it also shows his distant connection from society thus resulting in his identity loss because he is not aware of himself as being an individual, but just another among the masses. He no longer has goals or expectations to live up to, leaving him with no identity.
In a state of isolation one may also fall into regression or a different mindset of thinking and feeling. As soon as you are isolated, you feel as if there is no need to be part of society, since you have reverted to a different mindset you are to apply yourself to the new isolated region. Since Gregor is forced to stay in his room to spare his family the burden he holds, as time passes he continues to stay in his room and feels the want to stay instead of leaving. From this it makes him lose his identity because he feels that there is no point in leaving the room.
Throughout Abe’s novel, the protagonist also reverts back to a different mindset. Throughout the whole story, he is desperately trying to get out of the hole. But in the end he refrains from escaping. As he finally sees the outside world, he states that the fresh air “irritated his throat and, did not taste as he had expected” (238-239). He also sees the sky and ocean as the same “dirty yellow” as the sand. Noticing that his own shadow refuses to leave the pit, he decides that “There was no particular need to hurry about escaping” (239), and that he is perfectly comfortable to stay where he is. From this we can see that Junpei has accepted this new habitat and will adapt to it. He no longer wants or needs to revert to an earlier mindset.
As we continue in the novel both characters lose the ability to think for themselves and as a result, lose their self-identity. Any remnants of their past lives disappear. Junpei helps the woman in the dunes shovel sand and Gregor continues to avoid his so he will not be a problem or obstacle to them. Junpei no longer knows what he wants and Gregor no longer knows what the world has in store for him. Technically they have given in. This loss of ability to think is seen strongly in Gregor dedicates his own life to take care of his family, and yet they demand more without appreciation, which puts Gregor into a state of depression mentally. This depression causes him to think less about his life. Now Gregor is just waiting in his room lying on the bed expecting something to occur while Junpei lives within the sand dunes with the thought that he might be imprisoned there for eternity. Both characters lose their will to fight and give into the effects of alienation.
It isn’t until the nearly the end of both novels do the protagonists finally realize what they want. Finally at this certain point they believe they have found their true meaning. Gregor realizes that his identity is based on the love from his family, not the fact that they on him. Jumpei realizes that his life does lie in within the sand, for forcefully but because he can adapt to the new region and help those within it.
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In the end, isolation is a large factor to our lives. In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes, forced isolation is common in both novels. Abe shows that forced isolation by others damages the mind, as the protagonist has to fight against themself. Kafka on the other hand assigns his protagonist into a confined space, and forces him into isolation, causing him to become nothing but another person among the masses. Both authors purposely use this effect to show the consequences of isolation, knowing that solitary confinement will damage a person in many ways. The comparison between who they were and who they have now become show the effects of isolation. It is the isolation that led to Junpei’s change, but because of this isolation, it also led to Gregor’s moment of realization. Now it is time for ourselves to find our identity.
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