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Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis And Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness

2066 words - 8 pages

This essay explores the experience of estrangement and dislocation in Franz Kafka’s, ‘The Metamorphosis’ and Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness. Generally speaking, estrangement is a form of exclusion whereby readers, and characters within a story are alienated. In contrast, dislocation is a disturbance caused due to a change in place or state. ‘The Metamorphosis’ looks at how the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, is ostracised through his transformation. In contrast, Heart of Darkness has the continuing theme of dislocation throughout the novel. This paper will also consider the estrangement of the native inhabitants in Conrad’s novel. Theodor Adorno has written the following on Kafka’s writing: ‘each sentence says ‘interpret me’, and none will permit it.’ In other words, Kafka’s convoluted style of writing invites and resists interpretation. Bearing this in mind, this essay will consider the form to establish how the text itself alienates the reader through its narrative structure and use of language. It is also important to acknowledge that the author’s lives and experiences may have impacted their works; however, this paper will focus on the stories themselves.
‘The Metamorphosis’ has a very peculiar narrative, since its climax is reached in the very first sentence: ‘As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin.’ This opening sentence is crucial, since this extraordinary transformation is what the story is centred around. The imagery takes a metaphor literally; however, it is difficult for one to comprehend the metamorphosis of a human into a monstrous vermin. As a consequence, this opening sentence defamiliarises the reader, for it disrupts one’s habitual perception of the world. The transformation takes place in a fictitious every day world: ‘I’m burdened with the misery of travelling; there’s the worry about train connections’. Therefore, this creates a paradox: the text seems to be asking for a symbolic reading, and at the same time to be read literally. Moreover, referring to Gregor as a vermin estranges the reader, since a vermin is something considered as being vile, not worthy of society, and more appropriate in Gregor’s case, an insect. Furthermore, the story is told from the point of view of this creature, something that is below the human level, further perplexing the reader. Additionally, the reader ‘has been induced by Kafka’s skilful dissociation to suspend disbelief’, since he or she knows, as aforementioned, that such a transformation is not humanly possible. Thus, one feels distanced and estranged from the story, and indeed its characters, since they have to attempt to read an absurd and enigmatic text about a metamorphosis as though it were something rational.
On the other hand, Heart of Darkness employs a frame narrative. There is the primary narrator who sets the scene aboard ‘the Nellie, a cruising yawl’. He sets the stage for Marlow’s narration:...

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