A Comparison of the Narrative Structure of ‘The Outsider’ (Camus) and ‘Metamorphosis’ (Kafka)

Authors Avatar

Sarah Cheffings                                                     World lit.1                                                        IB English H

A Comparison of the Narrative Structure of ‘The Outsider’ (Camus) and ‘Metamorphosis’ (Kafka)

Narrative structure is an important element in every book written, it contributes to both layers of meaning and the readability of the book. Through this essay I will explore the narrative structure of Metamorphosis and The Outsider and the layers of meaning that it adds to these two books.

The Outsider is carefully and formally organised. The two main parts of the novel are of equal length. Death is a central motif; at the beginning there is the mother’s death, in the centre that of the Arab and at the end Meursault himself is awaiting execution. Each of these deaths affects Meursault in a different way. Although the first is the death of his own mother he appears to show no emotion and to have no experience of how to show emotion. At the second death, the murder of the Arab, he also shows very little emotion, he believes the case to be ‘very simple’ and he has to remind himself continuously that he is a murderer, ‘On my way out I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man.’ At the end his own impending death causes him to feel and show emotion, then accept the inevitable, death. After the novel is finished Camus has included an Afterward, which ensures that the reader understands his view of Meursault and the message of the book

The Outsider begins in a striking fashion: ‘Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I don’t know. I had a telegram from the home: ‘Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.’ That does not mean anything. It may have been yesterday.’ This provides an immediate insight into Meursault’s character, challenging the reader to despise him for his lack of emotion, indeed, he seems more concerned about the date of the death than with the fact that his mother is dead. The reader is also given the chance to admire him as he strives to give details accurately, not pretending to know something he is uncertain about. These first lines set the tone for the rest of the book.  Is it for the lack of feelings portrayed in such lines as these that he is executed and not because he has killed an Arab?

Join now!

There are many parallels in The Outsider, for example, Meursault's relationships with Raymond and with Salamano. Both these friends value Meursault and turn to him in their times of need: Raymond asks him for assistance in dealing with a girl who was ‘sort of’ his ‘mistress’: ‘Then he announced the fact that he wanted to ask my advice about this business, because I was a man of the world and could help him and afterwards he would be my mate, I didn’t say anything and he asked me again if I wanted to be his mate. I said I didn’t ...

This is a preview of the whole essay