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A Comparison Of The Process Of Alienation Of Meursault And Gregor

1629 words - 7 pages

Alice Rossignol
HL English – Clinton
World Literature One
Word Count:
A Comparison of the Process of Alienation of Meursault and
Gregor from L’Étranger and The Metamorphosis
Existentialism runs off the basis that all men are free and responsible of their own choices. As Sartre explains in On Authenticity, awareness of this freedom prevents men from making excuses and deceiving themselves. In L’Étranger (Camus) and The Metamorphosis (Kafka) however, the characters of Meursault and Gregor deceive themselves, leading to self-alienation as well as alienation from society. The progressions of the two alienations are reflected in the imagery, irony, symbolism, structure and ...view middle of the document...

”In contrast, the darkness and isolation of the prison in Part Two allot Meursault time to reflect upon his life, ultimately leading to his self acceptance and his acceptance of existentialist values.
Meursault’s lack of reaction towards Marie and other characters lead to his social alienation. When talking to the caretaker, Meursault refuses to see his dead mother. “He was quiet and I was embarrassed because I felt I shouldn’t have said that.” The caretaker, taken aback by Meursault lack of emotion, later testifies against him in the murder trial. Marie, the focus of Meursault’s apathy, remains with him despite the flaws in their relationship. “She asked me if I loved her, I told her it didn’t mean anything but I didn’t think so. She looked sad.” Rather than being upset with Meursault however, Marie uses his apathy as means for control. Compared to other women in that society, Marie is a kept woman with a lot of freedom. When she visits Meursault in prison, she announces that she will marry him. Meursault agrees because “it was mainly just something to say.” Both the caretaker and Marie represent society’s use for Meursault: though he is not accepted, Meursault’s lack of emotion and laissez-faire attitude allows society to dictate his actions.
In Part One, Meursault’s thoughts are concise and objective, stating only factual observations. These in turn influence Meursault’s behavior and standing in society. The structure of the sentences is deliberately short, yet Part Two of the novel brings about longer sentences as Meursault begins reflecting on his life. The reflection brings the end of Meursault’s self-alienation and denial, allowing him to come to terms with existentialism.

Gregor’s alienation in The Metamorphosis is more visible than that of Meursault, and certainly less subtle. Where Meursault’s alienation occurs from the inside out (character to society), Gregor’s alienation is the opposite. Physicality and imagery play a large part in showing the relationships between Gregor and society. Transformed into a “gigantic insect,” the mere sight of Gregor repulses everyone around him. Kafka emphasizes this through vivid imagery of his “snapping jaws,” and “snorting body.” While these descriptions in and of themselves are not pleasant, they provide the reader with a good idea of what Gregor the beetle looks like. This is used to further the effect of the physical attacks and power plays between Gregor and his father. As Gregor’s father violently shoves him back into his room or pelts him with apples “[one remaining] stuck in his body as a visible reminder,” the reader is able to see the differences in character between Gregor and Mr. Samsa, who represents the part of society that Gregor comes in contact with.
While Gregor is physically distinct from society in his beetle form, his alienation from society also comes across in the verbal reactions he receives. The cleaning woman is...

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