People's perception of the protagonists as being indifferent in "The Metamorphosis" by Kafka and "The Outsider" by Camus is what makes Gregor and Meursault heroic. Discuss.

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People’s perception of the protagonists as being indifferent in The Metamorphosis and The Outsider is what makes Gregor and Meursault heroic. A definition of a hero is “a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who [risks] or [sacrifice their] life.” Both Gregor and Meursault fit under the category of heroes because of their characteristics and actions. Franz Kafka and Albert Camus fundamentally use the perceived indifference of the protagonists as a method to make them powerful and provocative.


It is often easy to misinterpret the heroic qualities of the protagonist as indifference. Being indifferent is when individuals feel that things does not matter one way or another or “having no particular interest or concern.” The idea that the protagonists are indifferent is through our eyes and standards. We have our own perceptions of how people should react to particular situations, and when the criteria are not met, we judge the person to be an outcast. However, from the characters’ viewpoint, their behavior is considered normal. The protagonists have disparate principles than differ from ours, which makes it hard for us to understand them. Through our judgment of Meursault and Gregor as being indifferent, we are able to learn of their strengths.


In The Metamorphosis, Gregor is the hero who undergoes death twice.  The first death is figurative, when he turns into an insect, and the second is when he literally dies.  From early on in the novel, we know how important his family means to him.  The only pleasure Gregor has in life is in knowing that he is able to provide for them, as it is his family that his life revolves around. He gives up his social and love life for total dedication to his job so that he would not get fired as “[his whole future] and his family [depends] on it.” It is as though the pressing matter of being an insect did not matter, as long as it did not impede with his job. His metamorphosis does not allow him to do the crucial things the human Gregor is able to do.  Only such a change would allow the Samsa family to wake up and alter their lives to let them live a life with a purpose, rather than living merely to pass time. After his transmutation, everyone in his family gets a job and soon becomes indifferent to Gregor for they are too busy and feels resentment towards him for not being their breadwinner anymore.  Even with the treatment he receives from his family, Gregor still cares about them more than anything else. At end of the novel before he dies, he still “[thinks] back on his family with deep emotion and love.” As he makes his final trip from the living room into his bedroom, Gregor comes to a realization that he has to die in order for his family to ever be happy again after he hears of his sister’s persistence to get rid of him:

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"Human beings can't live with such a creature," his sister says. "If he were really Gregor...he'd have gone away on his own accord. Then we wouldn't have any bother."  

Although readers may think that Gregor’s indifference towards himself and his family is the cause of his death, it is in fact the opposite. He knows that the only way he would be able to disappear from his family’s life is to commit suicide for his family is unable to get rid of him themselves.  In sacrificing himself, he feels that he is doing the ultimate service to ...

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