Essay on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Essay on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

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This essay explores the experience of estrangement and dislocation in Franz Kafka’s, ‘The Metamorphosis’ and Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness. Generally speaking, estrangement is a form of exclusion whereby readers, and characters within a story are alienated. In contrast, dislocation is a disturbance caused due to a change in place or state. ‘The Metamorphosis’ looks at how the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, is ostracised through his transformation. In contrast, Heart of Darkness has the continuing theme of dislocation throughout the novel. This paper will also consider the estrangement of the native inhabitants in Conrad’s novel. Theodor Adorno has written the following on Kafka’s writing: ‘each sentence says ‘interpret me’, and none will permit it.’ In other words, Kafka’s convoluted style of writing invites and resists interpretation. Bearing this in mind, this essay will consider the form to establish how the text itself alienates the reader through its narrative structure and use of language. It is also important to acknowledge that the author’s lives and experiences may have impacted their works; however, this paper will focus on the stories themselves.
‘The Metamorphosis’ has a very peculiar narrative, since its climax is reached in the very first sentence: ‘As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin.’ This opening sentence is crucial, since this extraordinary transformation is what the story is centred around. The imagery takes a metaphor literally; however, it is difficult for one to comprehend the metamorphosis of a human into a monstrous vermin. As a consequence, this opening sentence defamiliarises the reader, for it disrupts one’s habitual ...


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...Lawson, Franz Kafka (New York: The Ungar Publishing Company, 1987).

Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness (London: Harper Press, 2013).

Boa, Elizabeth, ‘The Double Taboo: The Male Body in The Judgement, The Metamorphosis, and In the Penal Colony’, in Elizabeth Boa, Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Rolleston, James, ‘The Metamorphosis’, in James Rolleston, Kafka’s Narrative Theater (USA: The Pennsylvania State University, 1974).

Edgerly Firchow, Peter, ‘A Mere Animal in the Congo’, in Peter Edgerly Firchow, Envisioning Africa: Racism and Imperialism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, 2000).

F. Haugh, Robert, ‘Heart of Darkness: Problem for Critics’, in Joseph Conrad, Robert Kimbrough (ed.), Heart of Darkness, second edn (New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 1971).

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