Metamorphosis vs Stranger

Min Jae Cho
arr.6 – IB SL World Literature
Compare/Contrast Essay

It is easy to locate single body; it is hard to locate million cells that compose single body.

In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Albert Camus’s The Stranger, the concept of the “body” is quite important. Through vivid description of what happens to Gregor’s body in The Metamorphosis or what body means to Meursault in The Stranger, Kafka and Camus attempt to not only express the mentality of their main characters but also convey certain ideas related to society or meaning of life. For example, in The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s physical transformation represents Gregor’s psychological conflict and the brutality of materialistic society. In The Stranger, the concept of “body” signifies Meursault’s belief that life is meaningless and human mortality is inevitable.
First, in The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s transformed body is an external representation of his internal conflict. In other words, Gregor’s physical change mirrors the change in his psychology. In the beginning, Kafka opens up the story with extraordinary situation: “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin” (Kafka 3). Vermin is “a wild animal that is believed to be harmful to humans because it carries diseases”. Of all possible creatures that Gregor can be, why did Gregor turn into “vermin”? The term “vermin” indicates Gregor has been living under the pressure of keeping his whole family together by himself. None of his family members has a job. Gregor is the only one who makes money by working as a “ traveling salesman” (Kafka 4). However, Gregor abhors his job because salesman is a “grueling job” that demands “the torture of traveling, worrying about changing, eating miserable foods at all hours [and] constantly seeing new faces” (Kafka 4). He always bemoans that the life of salesman is “[not so different from that of] a harem woman” (Kafka 4)....