The Metamorphosis and Its Connection to Existentialism

Franz Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis,” is a powerful work of literature that explores the themes of isolation, alienation, and the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. The story follows Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect.

Throughout the story, Gregor struggles to come to terms with his new existence, as well as with his own identity and purpose in life. In this article, we will examine how Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” relates to the philosophical movement of existentialism.

What is Existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is primarily concerned with the individual’s experience of existence and their search for meaning in an absurd and often hostile world. According to existentialists, human beings are fundamentally alone in the universe and must create their own meaning through personal choice and action.

Isolation and Alienation

One of the central themes of “The Metamorphosis” is isolation and alienation. From the moment Gregor wakes up as an insect, he becomes physically and emotionally cut off from his family and society as a whole. His transformation makes him unable to communicate with others or participate in normal human activities.

This sense of isolation reflects the existentialist belief that humans are fundamentally alone in the universe. According to this philosophy, individuals must create their own sense of purpose and belonging through their choices and actions.

The Absurdity of Life

Another key aspect of existentialism is its focus on the absurdity of human existence. This philosophy argues that life has no inherent meaning or purpose but rather that humans must create their own purpose through their choices and actions.

In “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor’s transformation into an insect is a clear example of the absurdity of life. His sudden change defies all rational explanation, and his attempts to make sense of his situation only lead to further confusion and despair.

The Search for Meaning

Ultimately, “The Metamorphosis” is a story about the search for meaning in an absurd and meaningless world. Throughout the novella, Gregor struggles to come to terms with his new existence and to find a sense of purpose in his life. His family also grapples with this same question, as they are forced to confront their own priorities and values in light of Gregor’s transformation.

This search for meaning is at the heart of existentialism. According to this philosophy, individuals must create their own sense of purpose through their choices and actions. In “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka explores this theme by depicting characters who are forced to confront the meaninglessness of their lives and make difficult choices about how to move forward.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is a powerful work of literature that explores many of the central themes and ideas associated with existentialism. Through its depiction of isolation, alienation, absurdity, and the search for meaning, the novella offers a profound commentary on the human condition. By examining these themes through the lens of existentialism, we can gain a deeper understanding of Kafka’s work and its enduring relevance today.