Existentialism Essay

Existentialism Essay

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“The world is, of course, nothing but our conception of it.”
This quote, by Anton Chekhov, seems obvious and easy to relate to. However, it perfectly describes the concept of existentialism, which is neither obvious nor relatable. Existentialism is “a modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual, who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe” (“Existentialism”). Existentialism is a difficult philosophy to grasp, but by exploring examples in literature and art, one can come to a better understanding of its basic tenets.
The first tenet of existentialism is individualism and alienation, which is revealed in the works The Metamorphosis, “A Hunger Artist,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Each person is an individual; essentially, no two people experience a situation the same because no two people are the same. Due to this, existentialists tend to feel very alone and isolated. Existentialists do not believe in the concept of “society.” The sense of pure individualism alienates them. Professor Gordon E. Bigelow describes the existential view of isolation, “Man lives in alienation from God, from nature, from other men, from his own true self.” One can see this alienation in The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. Gregor Samsa, the protagonist, awakens one morning and discovers that he has been transformed into a bug.
Gregor Samsa feels that he has been treated as a lowly insect and comes to feel that he is one; the story makes the leap from ‘I feel like an insect’ to ‘I am an insect.’ Whatever the causes for Gregor feeling this way, these causes have led to his isolation and alienation (the feeling of being ...


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Jardine, Dan. "The Shawshank Redemption." Starpulse. All Movie Guide, 2008. Web. 6 April 2012.
Kafka, Franz. “A Hunger Artist.” Webmaster, 2007. Print.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Bantam, 1981. Print.
"Kafka's Metamorphosis." 123HelpMe.com. Web. 5 April 2012.
Lispector, Clarice. "The Fifth Story" 1986. Literature and the Language Arts. St. Paul, Minnesota: EMCParadigm, 2000. 475-77. Print.
Munch, Edvard. The Scream. 1893. Painting. The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway.
Ross, Ph.D., Kelley L. "Existentialism." The Proceedings of the Friesian School. 2011. Web. 6 April 2012.
"The Scream, Edvard Munch." Art History & Periods, Artist Biographies, Art Galleries, & Art Schools. Art History Guide. Web. 7 April 2012.
Waiting for Godot. Dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg. PBS, 2003. VHS.

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