Franz Kafka and Albert Camus were two writers whose work flourished as part of the existential movement.

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Eileen Carey                                                                 March 27, 2003

        Franz Kafka and Albert Camus were two writers whose work flourished as part of the existential movement.  Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe.  It regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.  Kafka’s literary piece, entitled The Metamorphosis, is the story of a man’s transformation into a bug in Prague at the beginning of the 20th century.  Camus novel, The Stranger , depicts the life of an aloof human being in Africa during the 1940s. Solitude is the act of distancing oneself from his or her surroundings.  Both Gregor, the protagonist in The Metamorphosis, and Meursault, the protagonist in The Stranger, demonstrate their own form of seclusion from society.

        In The Metamorphosis, the theme of isolation is manifested through the life of Gregor, the protagonist, who becomes a bug.  Even before his metamorphosis, Gregor lives a transient life staying for short periods in hotels during many nights due to his work life.  While at home, Gregor locks the doors in his room, a habit he claimed to have picked up from staying at so many hotels.  Gregor's behavior of locking his bedroom door symbolizes how he isolates himself even from his own family.  After Gregor's transformation he still hides himself from his sister. She is a character that has remained dear to Gregor throughout the story.   However, it does not seem that he is hiding himself because he is ashamed of his condition.  Instead, he wishes to remain without contact from his sibling.  The main character is constantly crouching in corners, in the darkness.  He loses all communication once he is transformed into a bug.  Without the ability to speak, Gregor does not attempt to use any other form of communication to let his sister, Grete, know how he feels.  While Grete attempts to feed him, he claims that he would rather starve than call to her attention that he doesn’t like any of the food she offers him.  A character that cares about his well being would make an effort to eat.  Seclusion is incorporated into this situation because Gregor does not want to interact with Grete even if it is to satisfy a necessary element of daily life.   Even as Gregor lay dieing, he did not call upon his family to be with him.  His family isolates Gregor as much as Gregor isolates himself.  They confine him to a small room and do not care to notice his diminishing state.  The Metamorphosis is an existential novel because it regards the individual experience in an indifferent universe.  Gregor demonstrates an indifferent attitude throughout his transformation.  His metamorphosis does not faze him or produce any emotional reaction.  He does not miss the society outside his room and continues to live his bleak isolated existence without lament for his former self.   Kafka expresses seclusion through the eyes of a man trapped in the body of a bug.    

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        In The Stranger by Albert Camus the protagonist, Meursault, lives a very solitary existence.  Meursault seems to distance himself from his own emotions.  In part one of Camus novel, Meursault is faced with the death of his mother.  He does not feel sorrowful about his mother and demonstrates indifference towards what would seem to be an emotionally draining experience.  At his mother’s funeral, he does not cry while others wallow in their sorrows before him.  He sits alone, for he is alone.  He alienates himself from the other characters because he does not feel the way they do.  Meursault does ...

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