The Metamorphosis

Existentialist Meaning in Kafka's The Metamorphosis 12th Grade

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines existentialism, in part, as “a philosophical theory that…emphasizes the existence of the individual person… determining their own development through acts of the will.” Existentialist work stresses the importance of the individual often denying the “existence of objective values.” Existentialism is focused on choice, as well as the idea that people must exist before they can have any values. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka uses Gregor Samsa’s struggle against existentialist principles, as well as the consequences surrounding Gregor’s actions against the existentialist principles to exhibit a chiefly existentialist theme.

Jean-Paul Sartre was the pioneering philosopher in the existentialist movement who claimed that “existence preceded essence” and rejected the ideas of older philosophers that humans had a set nature. Human essence refers to “…ideas that [are] eternal and unchanging,” such as those a person could obtain from following a religion. Aristotle believed the essence of humanity was reason, and that reason was what separated humans from animals (Fiero, 70). Sartre argued that humans have no predisposition to any sort of being, and existence in a purely physical manner...

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