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An Exploration of Surreal and Absurd themes in "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

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Tarooj Anwar

on 19 January 2013

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Transcript of An Exploration of Surreal and Absurd themes in "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

How many
Surrealist Painters does it take to change a light bulb?
An Exploration of Surreal and Absurd themes in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" WHAT... was that? Surrealism is an artistic movement that began in the early 1920s, focusing on unexpected juxtapositions that are meant to surprise the viewer. Surrealist artists thought of their works as philosophical expression, often inspired by dreams and the unconscious.

This is often said to have links with Absurdism. Absurdism is a type of philosophy which has origins in the late 19th century. It states that our tendency to seek meaning in life is, well, absurd. According to the Absurdist, it is impossible to find inherent meaning in life -- even if there is one -- due to the vastness of the unknown.

Let me expand on that... The Metamorphosis Under An Absurdist and/or Surrealist Context The Metamorphosis would probably have been more believable if it had been revealed to be a dream. The usage of Non Sequitur throughout the book has caused many to compare it to the Surrealist movement, which uses the technique to surprise and shock. The Metamorphosis is pretty good at surprising and shocking. So how does this all relate to The Metamorphosis? "When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous vermin."


The Myth
Of Sisyphus 1. The human experience is absurd. Our constant
search for meaning and the Universe's cold indifference towards it shows how absurd our situation is.

2. The Absurd Man recognises this meaninglessness and accepts it. As a result, he "revolts" against this situation by not succumbing to depression and suicide. He is granted "freedom" as he is not restricted by any moral and religious codes. He does not stop his search for meaning, embracing "passion" and living life fully.

3. An analogy is made to the Myth of Sisyphus. He keeps pushing against the cold indifference of the Gods and eventually reaches a state of contented acceptance of his absurd situation. Absurdist Fiction -The actions and plots of such works of fiction are ultimately meaningless. The characters find no inherent purpose in their lives.
-Usually uses satire and dark humour, emphasising irony and absurdity. Can be described as a weird form of 'tragicomedy'. Porcupine After reading the Metamorphosis, an Absurdist would say that Gregor fell into the trappings of our absurd human condition. He did not give his own life meaning, as we all should. He did not try and pursue meaning and he did not believe he had freedom. He was stuck in a shell, like a beetle rolled over its back -- so close to freedom, yet so far. In short, Gregor was like all of us: a bug in a cold, indifferent society, not making his own meaning but taking some absurd meaning from outsiders. It is, in my opinion, quite possible to link these two different philosophies in Kafka's novella. I think that The Metamorphosis uses Surrealism as a vehicle to convey the Absurd. By putting its characters in hard-to-believe situations that would be rather absurd, were they to happen in real life, the novel shows us that finding a universal meaning to life is impossible. Life, the Universe and everything are so inexplicably random and unexplainable that they would all be just as random as a universe where people woke up to find themselves transformed into gigantic bugs, thinking about how they missed the train to work.
In fact, our world is frightfully close to that reality. ‘O God,’ he thought, ‘what a demanding job I’ve chosen! Day in, day out on the road. The stresses of trade are much greater than the work going on at head office, and, in addition to that, I have to deal with the problems of traveling, the worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which never come from the heart. To hell with it all!’ ... ‘This getting up early,’ he thought, ‘makes a man quite idiotic. A man must have his sleep. Other traveling salesmen live like harem women. For instance, when I come back to the inn during the course of the morning to write up the necessary orders, these gentlemen are just sitting down to breakfast. If I were to try that with my boss, I’d be thrown out on the spot. Still, who knows whether that mightn’t be really good for me. If I didn’t hold back for my parents’ sake, I would’ve quit ages ago..." ‘Mr. Samsa,’ called out the middle roomer to the father, and pointed his index finger, without uttering a further word, at Gregor as he was moving slowly forward. The violin fell silent. The middle roomer smiled, first shaking his head once at his friends, and then looked down at Gregor once more. Rather than driving Gregor back again, the father seemed to consider it of prime importance to calm down the roomer, although they were not at all upset and Gregor seemed to entertain them more than the violin recital. ...he had pains throughout his entire body, but it seemed to him that they were gradually becoming weaker and weaker and would finally go away completely. The rotten apple in his back and the inflamed surrounding area, entirely covered with white dust, he hardly noticed. He remembered his family with deep feeling and love. In this business, his own thought that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the tower clock struck three o’clock in the morning. From the window he witnessed the beginning of the general dawning outside. Then without willing it, his head sank all the way down, and from his nostrils flowed out weakly out his last breath.
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