Compar. & contrast of personal motives VS. societal influences of main char. in The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) & The Stranger (Albert Camus)?I have to do an essay on this.  I did not have...

Compar. & contrast of personal motives VS. societal influences of main char. in The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) & The Stranger (Albert Camus)?

I have to do an essay on this.  I did not have time to read both of the books completely, so I only have a light grasp on the situations and what the main characters "go through," etc.

Can you please help me form a good, unifying idea & details to support (ex: quotes) for the analysis comparing & contrasting the personal motives VS. societal influences for MERSAULT in The Stranger & GREGOR in The Metamorphosis?

 

Thank you very much in advance. Your help is greatly appreciated, as I am under immense pressure right now and have a long trail of duties at hand along with this burdensome project, and my mind's so foggy even though I read them, maybe it's mental fatigue... Thank you!

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Kudos to you taking on this ambitious topic.

Both Kafka in The Metamorphosis and Camus in The Stranger deal, comically and absurdly, with how the individual is detested in society.  As is the nature of comedy, both protagonists are characterized as grotesque caricatures (Gregor) or detached anti-heroes (Meursault) because society has made them feel like outsiders, aliens, strangers, and foreigners to others and themselves.

Whereas Gregor's alienated transformation comes at the beginning, Meursault's execution comes at the end.  Regardless, both societies have, in effect, crucified the individual for his resignation from the cruel machinery of work, the determinism of religion, and the mass conformity of society.

Both novels begin with deadpan openings.  Metamorphosis is perhaps the greatest opening in all of literature: it is the story's climax!

As Grego Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

AND

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know. I had a telegram from home: ‘mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.’ That doesn’t mean anything. It may have been yesterday.

Both deadpan openings comically show how the modern society has caused the individual to literally feel like vermin or a son who casually forgets his mother's death.  Both authors attack society from an individual's victimization by it.  Gregor becomes a giant bug and Meursault becomes an anti-christ because they have tried to either drop out of society or stop playing by its ridiculous rules.  Instead, Gregor and Meursault have chosen to exercise extreme individuality, a too-dangerous freedom which threatens the stability of a modern society.

In particular, Meursault's motives are to love life: to swim, have sex, smoke, and sleep--all simple pleasures.  He hates work, taking trips, and--above all--the culture of death which says a son is to feel extreme guilt over the death of his aged mother.  After he shoots the Arab (in self-defense), he is judged by society more for not crying at his mother's funeral than for pulling the trigger.  Just before he is to be guillotined, Merusault says that no one had the right to cry over her death, which shows Meursault's love of life and choosing to honor her life by living his own, rather than mourn her death, as society would have it.  Overall, Camus says that the society, which is spitefully addicted to the culture of death, guilt, work and sameness, judges and condemns the individual who loves his own life.

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