Thursday, 4 March 2010

‘As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams’

And so we were introduced to Existentialism, the interest in human existence.
Who we are and how we function. It brought me back to my A-level drama, which was a 2 year course in existentialism, explored through Samuel Backett and Franz Kafka. Having studied ‘The Trail’ and crawled around stage in ‘The Metamorphosis’ I was encouraged to think about it what it means to live, day-to-day.
‘The Metamorphosis’ follows the reaction of a young man, waking up to find he has taken the form of insect. On this discovery, his main concern is how he will attend work, how he will converse with his parents and sister, essentially how he will continue to function as he had done before.
Kafka suggests through his novella that all humans are drawn to a life of routine, of ritualistic behaviour which we hold as our reason d’etre.
We wake in the morning to complete the tasks we have set ourselves for that day.
Gregor Samsa, leads a banal life of habit and although he appears a loving son and someone of a good nature he is not missed by his family when an infection eventually leads to his physical demise.
This story presents the idea that we live to function which is emulated in ‘The outsider’ by Albert Camus.
This novel presents Merasult, an unconscious nihilist who sees life with little perspective and no purpose. He lives in a scary world of calm observation which alienates/dislocates him from his peers. His extreme indifference hinders his ability to feel any emotion other than the physical feelings of hunger or tiredness. When he murders an Arab with no malice or antipathy he fails to emotively conceive what he has done.
Condemned for his lack of remorse and apparent nonchalance he is sentenced to death, which he waits for with fear only for the physical anquish.
During his last days in prison he is visited by a priest, who implores him to repent his sin. Mersault consistently shows disdain for the priest and for the religion he preaches ‘I hadn’t the time to work up an interest for something that didn’t interest me’ and is not concerned with any ‘after-life’ that might exist ‘Do you really think that when you die, you die outright, and nothing remains?’ ‘I said: yes’.

Merauslt’s disregard for morality contrasts to ‘The Fall’s’ protagonist Jean-Baptiste Clamence who is unequivocally quixotic in his pursuit of moral sanctity.
His endless yearning to succeed in everything in hidden by an apparent moral crusade which he eventually finds hollow. Clamence tells his story of realisation to a passing acquaintance, to whom he admits ‘I lived consequently without any other continuity than, from day to day, I, I, I.’

Existentialism is said to have been instigated by an incursion of atheism.
The increasingly popular idea that ‘God is Dead’ lead to a crisis of purpose.
No longer did people convince themselves they were born to ‘serve god’ or to fulfil some higher moral purpose. This gave way to the question ‘why are we here?’.

1 comment:

  1. yes - existentialism is central to modern drama. and kafka is great.