The Use of Imagery, Figurative Language, and Diction to Convey the Existentialist Idea in Albert Camuss The Stranger and Franz Kafkas The Metamorphosis
No human is perfectly the same as the other, some of us might have similar beliefs or use similar techniques to hit the target, but every person after all should be considered as an individual. In my opinion, being the odd one out does nothing more but challenges others about being more open minded. Camus (1913-1960) and Kafka(1883-1924) are great authors who were brave enough to announce to the world their differences through mastering and using the art of literature.”The Stranger” by Albert Camus and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka are two literary works that share similar themes. Both Camus and Kafka use imagery, figurative language, anddictionwithin their literary texts to clarify the theme of which; religion and society’s roles are an attempt by humans to create a meaning out of their useless and unreasonable existence in an absurd life. “The Stranger” is a literary work that discusses the absurd life from an existentialist point of view. The protagonist, of “The Stranger”, Meursault is a man who is considered by society as one without feelings who refuses to “waste his last minutes, before he gets executed, on God”. Similarly “The Metamorphosis” is also a literary work about existentialism, in which the protagonist named Gregor Samsa, is forced to take care of his parents and sister before his state of body changes leaving him to become isolated from society.
In the literary text “The Stranger”, Camus uses imagery to crystallize the theme. On the way to the church for Meursault’s mother’s funeral, a nurse told the protagonist that “if you go slowly, you risk getting sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church”. These contrasting images of the only two options which Meursault has create a sense of difference and freedom of choice. However, if we look deeper, there would be no difference between the two options, because they both end up with the same result. Either ways Meursault is going to get sick, which might symbolize and foreshadows human’s death, or even his own death. The two contrasting images, yet lead to the same result, are set by Camus to convey that the different options or roads that we are free to choose from in life, are a lie that people make up just to fool themselves and create meaning out of an absurd life. Thereby, this example of imagery proves that people and societies tend to create beliefs and rules in the form of religion to create meaning to their lives, or to escape the idea of death as there would be an after- life, but still there is only a single reality that is to come, which is death.
Similarly, Kafka also uses imagery in his literary work “The Metamorphosis”, to
introduce the interpreter to the same theme.On the second chapter of “The Metamorphosis”, the protagonist Gregor Samsa was thinking about “how he was to order his life anew”, the thought of “the room, with its height and freedom, where he was forced to lie flat on the floor frightened him…so, making a half-unconscious turn and without a slight feeling of embarrassment, he scuttled under the sofa…, he immediately felt comfortable”. In this example;Kafka clearly presents two opposing imageries by combining the words height and freedom in the same sentence with “forced to lie flat on the floor”. One of the effects of presenting these two completely opposing imageries in the same sentence is to make the reader aware of the complete and striking difference between reality, and what societies intend to believe. The writer first describes the room with its height and freedom as it is seen by many as the reality, while the imagery of the room itself never can have a sense of freedom, in fact it tends to symbolize prison. The tall and free like room, which symbolizes life as it appears to many people, is in fact still a prison like place where the protagonist is forced to lie flat on its floor and follow all the rules set by society; such as religion. The reality of this absurd life (in the eyes of the author)have finally caused the protagonist to live his life to the fullest, care best for his needs, and not worry about society’s irrational judgments or feel embarrassed for being different, and it is only by following this method of life that the protagonist felt imaditly comfortable.
The figurative language and the diction presented by Camus and Kafka in both of their literary works also prove the theme. On the first chapter of “The Stranger”, Camus intended to use the phrase “used to it”, several times; first when the protagonist sent his mother to a homecare for old people, he first mentioned that at the beginning she cried and did not want to enter the home, and that is “because she wasn’t used to it”. However, “a few months later and she would have cried if she’d been taken out. She was used to it”. The repetition of the phrase “Used to it” continued throughout the text. For example, on chapter five, the protagonist mentioned that the reason why his friend needed his wife is not because he was happy with her, but because “he’d pretty much gotten used to her”. When Meursault entered prison, he also mentioned that he has gotten used to it, and that being in prison is no longer a punishment for him anymore.
Similarly, Kafka has also used the phrase “used” several times in “The Metamorphosis” as well. On the first page of “TheMetamorphosis”, the author mentioned that it was impossible for the protagonist to sleep “as he was used to sleeping on his right side and in his present state he was unable to get himself in this position”. The effect which I believe the two authors intended for by using this diction is to explain to the reader how life isn’t about finding meaning and worshiping God, it is about getting used to things that are to be done in order to fulfill the days of their irrational existence in an absurd life. The authors did not intend for the phrase used to be mentioned throughout their literary texts out of nothing, but farther more, they –I believe- intended for the idea behind this simple word to be portrayed in the reader’s interpretation of the literary texts. The meaning presented by the phrase used in this context refers to an idea that opposes love and passion, it refers to something random that is practiced and therebybecomes a habit. As a result, these examples of the two books clearly identify and prove the theme of which; religion and society’s roles are a lie through which humans attempt to create a meaning out of their useless and unreasonable existence in an absurd life.
In conclusion, the idea of existentialism and the absurd life had clearly and very effectively fulfilled the two literary works of Camus and Kafka. Both of the authors are existentialists who were able to reflect their beliefs very effectively on paper, and were brave enough to express their individualities and unusual beliefs to the world. Through the themes, both of the authors showed union of what they thought of the world and life. It is the theme from an existentialist point of view that states that life is useless and unreasonable, which has been presented through similar ways in “The Stranger” and “The Metamorphosis”. Camus’s writing was much straighter forward, clearer and simpler to understand than Kafka’s complex and ironical danced writing. However, at the end both of the writers Camus and Kafka succeeded in achieving the goal of expressing themselves to the world, living their lives to the fullest until the end and at the same time living forever with their beliefs between the lines of their books.