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Using Sartre's philosophy of existentialism, how similar are the themes of No Exit and Metamorphosis?

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Existentialism is the reaction against the tradition approach to the objective, abstract understandings of human behavior. It involves the study of individuals who exist independently of cultures, traditions and law and how these circumstances affect their lives. Jean-Paul Sartre defined 'existentialism' as 'existence precedes essence' and drew the differentiating line between inanimate objects and human consciousness; either they have their essence decided or thrust upon them. This essay compares No Exit and Metamorphosis by applying Sartre's philosophy of existentialism to determine how far their themes are similar. In Sartre's No Exit, he applies his philosophy to the circumstances of the characters. The play centers on three individuals forced together in a room in hell, decorated with Second Empire furniture: Joseph Garcin, Inez Serrano and Estelle Rigault. Sartre's hell involves no fire; his hell is likened to a roach motel - they check in but they cannot check out. This mirrors Metamorphosis, when Gregor wakes up as an insect, assumed to resemble a cockroach. This subtle connection could represent the insignificance of human lives and could also be a symbol of suffering in the two texts. Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis is about Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into an insect. ...read more.


Isolation and alienation bring about the question of existence. Do others define us, or do we define ourselves? Sartre's existentialism divides humans and inanimate objects by assigning the terms 'being-in-itself' and 'being-for-itself' to them. A 'being-in-itself' has its character assigned to it, an object that is given a name and purpose. A 'being-for-itself' consciously chooses its essence and character. Using this idea, it is apparent that the characters in No Exit and Metamorphosis display similar characteristics. However, the characters in No Exit are 'beings-in-themselves' as opposed to Metamorphosis's Gregor as a 'being-for-itself'. This is where the texts differ. Though both exhibit existentialist themes, each utilizes a difference aspect of the philosophy. Garcin, Inez and Estelle are 'beings-in-themselves' because they subconsciously need and depend on each other. This characteristic is shown in the event when the door to their room opens. Garcin says "I shall not go" and Inez then says "The barrier's down, why are we waiting? ... But what a situation! It's a scream! We're - inseparables!" This line summarizes the fact that they need each other, but at the same time, do not want to be with each other. They rely on each other to know of their existences, especially Estelle, as shown by her statement: "When I can't see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist. ...read more.


They learned to live with his transformation; Grete even assumed the position of caretaker for Gregor and his parents acknowledged his presence in the house: "...his parents could not bring themselves to come in to him...But now both of them, his father and his mother often waited outside Gregor's door while his sister cleared up his room, and no sooner had she emerged than she had to tell them exactly how she had found the room, what Gregor had eaten, how he had behaved this time, and whether perhaps some slight improvement was noticeable." This showed that his parents were wiling to face the fact that their son was now an insect, even hoping that he would improve, though their hopes would be dashed. In conclusion, within the parameters of Sartre's philosophy of existentialism, the themes of the two texts are considerably similar with a few deviations such as the opening of the door choice theme and the suffering theme. It is to be taken into consideration that because of Kafka's straightforward understatements of the events in Metamorphosis, the text can have multiple interpretations. This essay was just one such way of interpreting the text and by using a common philosophy; the texts' themes could be compared and found to have considerable similarities based on that philosophy. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kimberly Soong Le Anne IB English SL World Literature 1 ...read more.

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