The Role of Women in the Metamorphosis and the Stranger

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World Literature Essay|
Role of Women in The Stranger and Metamorphosis|
Maria Fernanda Contreras|


“The woman kept on crying” (10) – this ability to experience and express emotions is shown as something both the protagonists in both novels - The Metamorphosis written by Franz Kafka and The Stranger by Albert Camus – lack. Women are usually portrayed as the element of society who are more likely to show this ability which connects them to the world surrounding them and keeps them (and men) from being “strangers” to society. The protagonists have especial difficulties relating to women in a profound level because of their lacking this ability. Their relationship with women symbolizes their relationship with society. The difference between them is that while Gregor’s ability to relate to women deteriorated as he lost his humanity (metamorphized), Mersault’s ability only began to exist after he lost his humanity (opened himself to the gentle indiference of the world).

In The Stranger, before Mersault “opened himself to the gentle indifference of the world” (122), he valued women only in regard with their physical appearance and made no attempt to relate to them in any other way. This is illustrated in Mersault’s relationship with Marie Cardona. He values her company only because he is attracted to her in a physical way with no regards to her character: “She had her legs presses against mine. I was fondling her breasts” (Camus 20). In fact, their characters are the complete antithesis of each other: her liveliness, “She laughed the whole time” (Camus 19-20), in contrast to his apathy, “It didn’t mean anything” (41), her love for him, “with a smile and she wanted to marry [Mersault]” (42), in contrast to his inability to reciprocate her feelings, “…she asked me if I loved her. I told her I didn’t think so” (35). This further highlights their disconnection from one another. He accepts his incapability to interact with her and thus, he merely restrains himself to observe. On the other hand, Marie still tries to make him love her, as it is his peculiarity what she likes about him. She later gives up trying to create a more intricate relationship and thus, ending their relationship. In Marie’s last visit to Mersault, Mersault’s voice is “drowned out by the man next to him” (74), symbolizing that she has stopped trying to connect to him.

Before his metamorphosis, Gregor seemed to share a slight connection with women or at least a desire to be able to connect with them. This desire is revealed with his memory about the cashier in the millinery store: “ whom he had courted earnestly but too slowly.” (41) He has the will to try and relate to them, unlike Mersault who simply acceptes the situation. It is this desire, rather, than being capable of actually relating to them that “cheats” society to think that Gregor is normal. Nevertheless, the realization of his condition as a “cockroach” changed that desire to acceptance, and it is this, not being able to relate to women, that led to his allienation from his family. He also shares a connection with his sister that he is initially unaware of. Both Gregor and Grete are being used in the same way by their parents, thus making both of them “cockroaches”. While neither of them was aware of their “insect” nature their relationship seemed to work out and it seemed that they understood each other; however, once Gregor realized that he was a “cockroach”, their relationship began to collapse.

Although he cannot relate to women at the beginning of the novel, Mersault’s relationship with his mother goes through a metamorphosis. At the beginning of the novel, he shows no real empathy or understanding towards his mother’s emotions. He finds them childish and doesn’t understand them: “..But that was partly because she wasn’t used to it. A few months later and she would have cried if she’d been taken out” (5). He diminishes the meaning of her crying...
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