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Explore how the writers use the technique of defamiliarisation to reveal hidden truths about human conditions. Camus and Kafka use literature as a vehicle for revealing uncomfortable and normally hidden truths

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Introduction

Explore how the writers use the technique of defamiliarisation to reveal hidden truths about human conditions. Camus and Kafka use literature as a vehicle for revealing uncomfortable and normally hidden truths about the human conditions and the state of man. Arguably the most significant technique they employ is the use of defamiliarsation. Certain truths are often hidden or disguised because certain 'dark' cause uncomfortable feelings or what is thought to be unconventional, often does not conform to social norms. Naturally, all individuals can form their own code of ethics but society creates a set of supposedly 'objective' truths and does not allow subjective truths to surface. In The Outsider, Camus creates Meursault, a character who is shockingly blunt through his lack of 'artificial' social masks. The apparent callousness of Meursault's reaction to his mother's funeral is shocking to the reader, "She (a funeral attendant) was crying regularly... I thought that she would never stop"1 Meursault does not once grieve for his mother's death even though society expects him to and his annoyance towards the woman is thought to be extremely 'unacceptable'. However through defamiarising Meursault's behavior at the funeral we are given insights into the absurdity of the whole ceremony of death. ...read more.

Middle

The treatment of his family towards his transformation reflects how the society treats people that are not useful to themselves. Ultimately, his constant struggle to communicate with his family represents human struggle for acceptance. Even in his utterly altered state, this is Gregor's ultimate desire and is more important than understanding his 'nature' as vermin. Kafka seems to be asserting that this is equally true of human nature. We are unable to understand ourselves so seek validation from others. This further explores the fact that selfish need is innate to humans. The evidence can be seen through both protagonists of the novels, Meursault and Gregor. In The Outsider, Meursault's lover, Marie often tries to extend her love and affection towards him but Meursault continues to alienate himself and defamiliarise the reader because he has no conventional 'feelings' except those that appeal to his senses such as sexual contact. Through defamiliarisation Camus asserts the hidden truths that humans are often much more driven by empirical sensation rather than abstract emotions. Even when marriage is discussed, Meursault shows no sign of interest and emotions as he told her that "it (love) didn't mean anything" His insensitivity reflects on that fact that he perceives the abstract ideas of love and marriage absurd. ...read more.

Conclusion

His only purpose prior to his transformation was to keep his family happy, fulfills his sister's dream of being a violinist as he confesses "If I didn't hold myself back because of my parents, I would have quit long time ago" 10 Inevitably as humans, we all believe that we need a purpose in life. Throughout The Metamorphosis, Kafka uses Gregor's solitary confinement to display that society shows no true altruistic feelings for the individual. Gregor's father who "urged him back, uttering hisses like a savage"11 and his mother who "seemed totally lost to the world" 12when they saw Gregor as a bug. Metaphorically, he was a bug before being one literally. Essentially, uncomfortable hidden truths of the human conditions are revealed to us through both of the novels, especially by defamiliarising the reader. Both Camus and Kafka successfully communicate to the reader different aspects of the human condition especially the absurdity of existence in the face of death. Furthermore, how all individuals suffer in the struggle to compromise differentiate between human nature and social expectations. Inevitably, as human beings living in society we cannot escape hence we are trapped by all aspects of life and existence. Habit and routine desensitize us to fundamental truths; defamiliarisation awakens us to knowledge we secretly already know. ...read more.

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