Comparing the Absurd in The Metamorphosis and Endgame

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The Absurd in The Metamorphosis and Endgame

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms defines the Absurd as “A phrase referring to twentieth-century works that depict the absurdity of the modern human condition, often with implicit reference to humanity’s loss or lack of religious, philosophical, or cultural roots. Such works depict the individual as essentially isolated and alone, even when surrounded by other people and things.” (Murfin 2) Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett were two of the more influential writers in this movement, as both The Metamorphosis and Endgame contain examples of this genre. While the Absurd did not fully develop until after his death, it owes much of its development to Kafka.

The Absurd as a genre developed in between two world wars and the authors of this time were so used to shocks and catastrophes that these qualities were of course included in their writings. “Life held little intrinsic meaning to the characters which populated Kafka's novels and short stories. Man was isolated and constantly subjected to unknown and terrifying forces -- forces without direction, forces without control.” (Kreis 1)

The entire plot of Metamorphosis revolves around an instance of absurdity, as Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find himself an insect. Kafka’s “characters … react in a common-sense way when such a response (given the situation) is utterly grotesque.” (Mack 2299) “All events and incidents seem improbable yet the casual acceptance of Gregor’s transformation by the characters creates a sense of mystery.”(Belur 1) Kafka mixes everyday reality with dreamlike or nightmarish elements. There is never an explanation given as to why Gregor changes, he simply does.


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Works Cited

Belur, Roopa Malavally. Absurdity as Convention in Franz Kafka’s Works. 19 Mar. 2001. 27 Nov. 2002.

Coulehan, Jack. Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis. 29 Jan. 1997. Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. 26 Nov. 2002.

Esslin, Martin. The Theater of the Absurd. New York: Overlook Press, 1969

Kreis, Steven. Lecture 12: The Existentialist Frame of Mind. 25 July 2002. The History Guide. 27 Nov. 2002.

Mack, Maynard, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987.

Murfin, Ross and Surpryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998.
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