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Surrealism Essay

883 words - 4 pages

Surrealism encompasses a reality above the surface reality, usually through efforts to suspend the discipline of conscious or logical reason, aesthetics, or morality in order to allow for the expression of subconscious thought and feeling. This literary technique, if successful, provides the audience with a suspension of disbelief, an acceptance of the imaginative aspects of the author's fantastic creation. "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka and "The Masque of the Red Death" by Edgar Allen Poe, are two examples of surrealism. These short stories both contain ex-centric scenarios and environments which suspend the discipline of conscious or logical reasoning. By definition "The Metamorphosis" and "The Masque of the Red Death" are the same. In style, context, and sub-consciousness, however, these short stories are entirely different variations of surrealism.

Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" offers a powerfully symbolic expression of personal anguish and uncertainty. The story's opening sequence tells of a man named Gregor Samsa who awakes one morning to find that he has been inexplicably transformed into a giant insect. Isolation, fear, and personal resentment eventually overwhelm the creature. At last, when Gregor Samsa is completely abandoned, death succumbs him. The emotional distress and internal struggle for Samsa in "The Metamorphosis" is quite logical for Kafka's audience. The circumstance of Samsa's sudden fate, however, is not. Kafka solves this problem by providing intimate details about the unbelievable, forcing the audience to accept things otherwise deemed ridiculous. In "The Metamorphosis," for example, Kafka describes insect physiology and behavior so meticulously that the audience has no choice but to accept that Samsa is truly a cockroach. Kafka subconsciously enters the reader into his own nightmare, allowing them to become one with his prophetic self.

Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Masque of Red Death" offers a more aesthetic, indirect version of surrealism than Kafka's "The Metamorphosis." Poe's story showcases Prospero, a prince who maintains a sadistic grip on his surreal, plague-stricken medieval village and on his palace's noblemen guests, who mistakenly believe that they are sheltered from the Red Death stalking the land outside Prospero's towering walls. Eventually, the prince and all of the noblemen die, making it clear that neither money nor royalty can save one from death. Like Kafka, Poe reflects a keen attention to detail, elevating interior states of the soul to exterior status. The two authors are similar in that they manipulate audience reactions to fear through spellbinding logic. Furthermore, Poe and Kafka are alike in that their stories are derived from current events, history, or personal...

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