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Common Characteristics of The Trial and Nausea

I am happy I took the opportunity to explore Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea and Franz Kafka's The Trial. These novels are considered by many to be two of the definitive works representing Existentialist philosophy. Many other authors have dealt with the subject of existence in the form of a novel, most notably Samuel Beckett (Molloy) and Albert Camus (A Happy Death). Existentialist ideas have even slipped into the works of authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Heller.

The Trial and Nausea have a great number of common characteristics. Obviously, Existentialism is an important theme in both The Trial and Nausea. The background of this philosophy creates a solid foundation on which the novels develop. Both novels contain a high level of absurdity, which is used as a device to clarify common life experiences that are often overlooked. The protagonist in each novel is presented in an isolated environment. Each character deals with enormous inner turmoil while trying to find meaning in his life.

Both novels were written in Europe in the late 1930's, at a time when World War II was beginning to invade the lives of Europeans. Hitler's dominance of human minds was most likely a strong influence on the thought processes displayed by the Existentialists. This mode of thought seems a reasonable reaction to the massive destruction of individual worth and freedom that takes place at times of war.

The conceptions of existence have influenced many writers. A specific school of writers, the Existentialists, chose to focus solely on unraveling the mysteries of existence. Sartre and Kafka were two of the most influential and famous writers of the Existentialist school. Sartre, in addition to his acclaim as a novelist, received considerable acclaim as a philosopher. Some critics, on the other hand, were strongly opposed to any notion of the Existentialist mode of thinking. Basically, Sartre and Kafka were trying to find a meaning for existence. They seem to have been frustrated by such an enormous task, because the end result in both works considered here is a novel in which no one really exists. Even if the characters had existed, they would not have deserved their existence, because Sartre and Kafka explored the state of being to a point where no one qualified to exist.


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