World Literature Paper

Submitted By UrsulaGbe1
Words: 1433
Pages: 6

How the Authors Use Hardships to Elicit Compassion for the Protagonists in The Metamorphosis and The Stranger

One of the most important connections between The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and The Stranger by Albert Camus is the way the protagonists die at the end of each novel. As a conclusion, Gregor’s death and the way his family handles it have a strikingly powerful effect on the audience. Likewise, the announcement of Meursault’s death by guillotine has a similar effect on the audience’s emotions towards the character. One of the reasons why Kafka and Camus are able to create such an impact on the audience is because they meticulously introduce the characters’ moments before their deaths as unpromising and bleak. The two authors make the audience sympathize with Gregor and Meursault by depicting their final moments as despairing and lonely. In The Metamorphosis, for example, Kafka makes the audience feel compassion and empathy for Gregor as he relentlessly tries to convince his family that he can understand them and that, contrary to their beliefs, he is still the Gregor they know and supposedly love. Similarly, in The Stranger, Camus allows Meursault to reveal his thoughts about his death sentence and the society that imposed it. Both Gregor’s and Meursault’s narrative are essential in portraying the mental and emotional pain produced by their ostracized final moments. Hence, the audience understands that both Gregor and Meursault are ironically liberated by their deaths at the end of the novel. It is not a coincidence that Kafka details so much about Gregor’s feeling toward his sister, or that Camus allows Meursault to share his puzzled mind with the audience. Through the use of characterization, Kafka and Camus place their characters in extreme and almost hopeless situations: Gregor cannot communicate with his family and Meursault is in jail and found guilty of murder. The authors do this in order to make the reader feel greater sympathy and a sense of relief when the characters ironically find freedom and hope at the end of the novels.
Through what the characters think and say, Kafka and Camus depict how their isolation, involuntary or self-inflicted, from the rest of the world causes them to feel deserted and reclusive, and therefore seek out freedom. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka introduces the reader to the common and frequent “almost complete silence” (Kafka 47) of the Samsa household. As Gregor peeks out to his dining family and their newly acquired roomers through the crack of his bedroom door, “it seemed strange to Gregor that among all the different noises of eating” he constantly picked up “the sound of their chewing teeth” as if it was a sign that “you needed teeth to eat” (Kafka 47). Kafka, by revealing Gregor’s wish to have a mouth full of teeth, also exposes his inner desire to join his family at the dinner table the way he had multiple times before. Thus, witnessing the fact that complete strangers are more welcome by Gregor’s family than he is himself, makes the reader feel nothing but compassion for the repulsive vermin. After interrupting the evening by fully crawling out of his bedroom into the living room, Gregor painfully returns to the darkness of his bedroom and asks himself “and now?”, later making “the discovery that he could no longer move at all” (Kafka 53). Through Gregor’s rhetorical question, Kafka heightens the uncertainty of Gregor’s future in the house. Also, the fact that he can no longer move foreshadows his demise. Kafka enables us to feel a sense of relief because, as the reader, we can infer that Gregor is about to die. Therefore, we are glad that he no longer has to deal with his family, the roomers or even the fact that he is a bug. In a similar fashion, in The Stranger, Meursault’s imprisonment seems never-ending for him. He has been moved to a different cell where he can only “see the sky” when he is “stretched out on [his] bunk” (Camus 108). Unable to…