The main character's relationship with others in Albert Camus 'The Outsider' and Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis'.

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English IB                                                                                   Ranjit Amar        

March 2003                                                                                Grade 11

The main character’s relationship with others in Albert Camus ‘The Outsider’ and Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’

Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ and Albert Camus ‘The Outsider’ are two novels which present different views of the main protagonist’s relationships with others. Kafka mainly focuses on the relationships that exist within a family whereas Camus focuses on relationships that exist in the broader society.

In Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ Gregor Samsa, the main protagonist was the primary bread winner in the Samsa household. He was a traveling salesman who was taking care of the family’s debt. Gregor was respected and valued in his family; he did not have an active social life because of his work. His only companions were his mother, sister and father; if at all Gregor had any social relationship it was with his family. The day Gregor metamorphosized, his social relationships with his family changed dramatically; he was no longer respected in his family because of his monstrous physical appearance and his inability to work. The metamorphosis of Gregor may be seen as the point at which his relationships began to break up.

In ‘The Outsider’, Meursault, the main protagonist, is a man for the moment and doesn’t think about his future. When Meursault loses his mother in the beginning of the novel, he is emotionless and shows no grief. Like Gregor, he has limited friends in society and his relationships are also limited. In the novel there are only a handful of characters with whom Meursault interacts; one of them was his girlfriend Marie. She wanted to marry Meursault and settle down, but he did not show interest and moreover he thought that she was only a sex object and based his relationship with her on sex. He was basically looking for a female to fulfill his desires. “I’d fancied her at the time, and I think she fancied me too.” (Camus, 1983, p.23). This sentence asserts our assumption about Meursault’s type of relationship with Marie.

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In the latter part of the novel, Camus introduces the Magistrate who examines the Meursault’s murder case of the Arabs. The Magistrate is one of the characters who challenge Meursault’s beliefs and way of thinking.  He wanted to know the depth of Meursault’s spiritual life but this was all too personal for Meursault. The reason why Meursault cooperated with the Magistrate was because he was undergoing a trial and his future was at stake, and he wanted to get out of imprisonment. Meursault’s lawyer is another character who urged him to be silent and to act as he told him ...

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