What would be the best story by Kafka to define nihilism?

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Franz Kafka’s brilliant parable “A Message from the Emperor” illustrates the paradoxical nature of nihilism: if something has no meaning, does that not mean something? In what is perhaps the shortest of his short stories, Kafka writes of an emperor who has dispatched a message “to you, the one apart, the wretched subject, the tiny shadow that fled far, far, from the imperial sun, precisely to you he sent a message from his deathbed.” The message is valuable; the emperor cherishes it. He sends his messenger dashing toward you, but the impediments between you are vast.

If open country stretched before him, how he would fly, and indeed you might soon hear the magnificent knocking of his fists on your door. But instead, how uselessly he toils; he is still forcing his way through the chambers of the innermost palace; never will he overcome them; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to fight his way down the steps; and were he to succeed at this, nothing would be gained: he would have to cross the courtyard and, after the courtyard, the second enclosing outer palace, and again stairways and courtyards, and again a palace, and so on through thousands of years; and if he were to burst out at last through the outermost gate—but it can never, never happen—before him still lies the royal capital, the middle of the world, piled high in its sediment. Nobody reaches through here, least of all with a message from one who is dead. You, however, sit at your window and dream of the message when evening comes.

Futility separates possibility from actuality. You will never receive the message, and you will never learn its meaning, yet there is meaning in the existence of the message, that there ever was a message, and that you were given the chance to experience the message. You continue to dream of it long after hope should be lost, as does the messenger. He continues moving forward even though he will never, ever make it. Why doesn’t he quit? Why do you not stop waiting?

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Let us start by defining nihilism. Nihilism is the philosophical belief that negates purpose and meaning in life by presenting life as fundamentally meaningless and without any value. Given this definition, we can see that nihilism is an approach that is actually very strong in the majority of Kafka's short stories. In particular, however, you might like to consider "The Metamorphosis" and the poor life of Gregor Samsa. The irony is that Gregor's life seems actually to improve in some ways by his transformation into an insect. Note how he thinks of his life as a human, working as a travelling salesman:

"Oh God," he thought, " what a strenuous profession I've picked! Day in, day out on the road. It's a lot more stressful than the work in the home office, and along with everything else I also have to put up with these agonies of traveling--worrying about making trains, having bad, irregular meals, meeting new people all the time, but never forming any lasting friendships that mellow into anything intimate. To hell with it all!"

If we examine Gregor Samsa's life and the way that he has to work so hard to support his family we can see a life that is essentially based around lack of purpose and meaninglessness. The way that after his transformation Gregor's family slowly change their opinion about him until he is forgotten completely and dies alone makes this powerful story a tremendous allegory about nihilism in our contemporary nihilistic society.

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