HL English – Clinton
World Literature One
A Comparison of the Process of Alienation of Meursault and
Gregor from L’Étranger and The Metamorphosis
Existentialism runs off the basis that all men are free and responsible of their own choices. As Sartre explains in On Authenticity, awareness of this freedom prevents men from making excuses and deceiving themselves. In L’Étranger (Camus) and The Metamorphosis (Kafka) however, the characters of Meursault and Gregor deceive themselves, leading to self-alienation as well as alienation from society. The progressions of the two alienations are reflected in the imagery, irony, symbolism, structure and semantics of the two texts.
In L’Étranger, Meursault’s alienation is deliberate, and stems from his emotions and reactions to other people. Upon receiving news of his mother’s death, Meursault simply says, “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.” These two phrases are striking due to the obvious distance between Meursault and the even that has occurred. He could very well be talking about a stranger but for one small word: ‘Maman.’ Translating to ‘Mummy’ in English, Meursault’s way of referring to his mother is the only sign that he is not entirely detached. While he does not weep nor let any other emotion show, Meursault’s utterance of the word is a demonstration of the only relationship he has. The progression of Meursault’s self-alienation concerning his emotions is reflected in the symbolism of heat and the sun, as well as cooler air and the dark. In Part One, Meursault is placed in many situations in which he comments on the heat and the sun. The sun shows Meursault’s occasional passionate acts. However, it also allows Meursault to hide behind excuses and denial that feed his isolation. Rather than accepting his emotions and actions, Meursault describes the murder of the Arab by saying that “the trigger gave way.”In contrast, the darkness and isolation of the prison in...