Existentialism in the Stranger and the Metamorphosis Essay
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“We are thrown into existence first without a predetermined nature and only later do we construct our nature or essence through our actions. ”(Existentialism)This quote is present through the main characters of The Stranger, Blade Runner, and The Metamorphosis in each of these works the characters create their own nature. These works are similar several ways; in all three the men create their own nature by the free choices they make. Through these choices they also create their own values.
The characters values and meanings of life are where these works differ.
Initially, in The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s life seems to have meaning, through providing for his family, until he changes into a bug and determines for himself that his life really has no meaning. This is very unlike The Stranger because Meursault, throughout the entire work, lives his life as if there is no meaning to life and he dies knowing this. Finally Deckard, at the beginning of his life, seems to have lived his life with no meaning or values, until he encounters Roy and Rachael who change his perspective.
Throughout these works these men make makes choices that determine who they are and what their about, but ultimately every one of them knows their subsequent mortality. It is clearly understood through Meursault’s narration that life to him is meaningless. The choices he makes and things he says are without thought or meaning. They are usually in the spur of the moment of what will please him. For example the novel starts by Meursault telling the audience “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.
” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday”(The Stranger). Meursault treats his mother’s death with the same demeanor with which he will later treat the death of the Arab. Both of these events are usually different in the types of emotions they reveal, but Meursault shows no emotion at all. He just goes through the day to day motions of life. Through his narration and the tone of the novel the reader is clearly able to determine Meursault lives with no emotion or essence. He accepts who he is and his mortality. In the end he accepts a punishment that is not worthy of the crime.
He knows even if he doesn’t get executed he will die anyway whether its ten years from now or fifty. Clearly The Stranger questions the reader whether humans really have a meaning for life since in the end everyone will die and be forgotten. It seems that Camus meant to get the point across that in life there is no predetermined nature people create it through their choices. Meursault chooses to live his life with little or no meaning. Unlike Marie who falls in love with Meursault and chooses to support him even though he didn’t care if they got married.
Like Marie in The Stranger Gregor, who is the main character, in The Metamorphosis has a mean and value to his life. Gregor supports his family because his father failed and never went back to work. Gregor had it all good job, money, and ability. He chose to support his family and allow them to live a nice life while he worked and traveled with little time for himself. Gregor doesn’t like his job, but he chooses to stay because it offers good money and he will pay of debt. All of these choices are Gregor’s they are what he based his life off of.
When he changes into a bug his mentality is altered. He begins to realize that all that he did for his family eventually is forgotten and soon he is forgotten about too. Kafka relates this to the human race and its inevitable end. When humans die in the beginning they are remembered, but slowly people forget, or lose interest, until eventually that person is totally forgotten about and life goes on. This previous statement is clearly seen in the novel when the family moves and decides that is time to marry off their daughter. They never mention anything about the loss of their son.
In Blade Runner the main character Deckard destroys replicants. He does his job and usually never questions the reasons why he destroys the human-like robots. The director seems to try to get across the point early that Deckard lives a meaningless life. He does whatever he wants whenever he wants. At first it seems like he lives a life much like Meursault, but later it becomes clear that he is trying to find a meaning for life. When talking to Roy, Deckard realizes that in life everyone is going to die and that everything that person did would be forgotten and lost.
At the same time Roy explains the value of life, the choices, love, and things humans can experience. Blade Runner tries to get across to the viewer that they are who they want to be and that in the end the choices and things they’ve seen will be forgotten and meaningless. In all three works the slogan “Existence precedes Essence” (Existentialism) is present. Each one of the main characters makes their choices which determine their nature. Every one of the characters at some point realizes that they all share a common trait with the rest of the human race and that is death.
They also know that in the end they will be forgotten about and eventually everyone will move on with their lives as if they never existed. These works differ in the way each character goes about their lives. Meursault believes there is no meaning to life so he lives his life on the fly. He does whatever pleases him. Gregor begins with a life he has chosen for himself only to realize that eventually all that he has done will be forgotten and lost. Finally Deckard begins with no meaning and tries to determine a meaning through replicants.
He realizes that the choices in his life are what makes his life meaningful. Throughout these works Existentialism was present. The characters offered a glimpse of the reason for existence. Whether it was for providing for a family or killing replicants each one of the character in the end determined that life was only the choices that they make. Ultimately they all learned that everything they did and chose to do was meaningless when they were dead and there is no way to avoid it.