Existentialism in Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 687 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 687|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Alienation
  3. The Absurdity of Existence
  4. The Quest for Meaning
  5. Conclusion


Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" is a seminal work in the canon of existential literature, a genre that interrogates the essence of human existence and the individual's experience of an absurd and indifferent world. The novella tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. This bizarre and inexplicable event sets the stage for an exploration of existential themes, including alienation, absurdity, and the search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. Through Gregor's metamorphosis and subsequent experiences, Kafka delves into the depths of human despair and the struggle for identity and purpose. This essay will examine how "The Metamorphosis" embodies key existentialist concepts, focusing on themes of alienation, the absurdity of existence, and the quest for meaning.

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Alienation is a central theme in existential philosophy and is poignantly illustrated in "The Metamorphosis." From the outset, Gregor is depicted as an isolated figure, disconnected from his family and society. His transformation into an insect serves as a physical manifestation of his internal alienation. Before his metamorphosis, Gregor's life is characterized by monotonous work and a lack of meaningful relationships. His family relies on him financially but shows little emotional support or understanding. After his transformation, Gregor’s alienation intensifies as his family becomes repulsed by his new form. They confine him to his room, further severing his ties to the outside world. This physical and emotional isolation underscores the existential idea that individuals are fundamentally alone in an indifferent universe. Kafka's portrayal of Gregor's alienation highlights the inherent loneliness of the human condition and the difficulty of achieving genuine connection with others.

The Absurdity of Existence

Another significant existential theme in "The Metamorphosis" is the absurdity of existence. Gregor's sudden and inexplicable transformation into an insect epitomizes the absurdity that existentialist thinkers, such as Albert Camus, describe. The irrational and chaotic nature of Gregor's predicament reflects the existential belief that life is inherently meaningless and unpredictable. Gregor's attempts to continue his daily routines despite his grotesque form illustrate the absurdity of trying to impose order and rationality on an irrational world. His futile efforts to communicate with his family and maintain his role as a provider further emphasize the disconnect between human aspirations and the indifferent reality of existence. Kafka's depiction of the absurdity of Gregor's situation invites readers to question the nature of reality and the meaning of their own lives, aligning with the existentialist view that individuals must confront the absurd and create their own meaning.

The Quest for Meaning

While "The Metamorphosis" vividly portrays alienation and absurdity, it also grapples with the existential quest for meaning. Gregor's transformation forces him to reevaluate his life and his sense of self. Stripped of his human identity and societal role, Gregor is compelled to confront the essence of his existence. His initial concern for his family's well-being and his desire to return to his former life reflect a search for purpose and significance. However, as his physical condition deteriorates and his family's hostility grows, Gregor's sense of purpose diminishes. Ultimately, Gregor's death can be seen as a release from the existential anguish of a life devoid of meaning. Kafka's narrative suggests that the search for meaning is fraught with difficulty and may ultimately be unattainable. This aligns with existentialist thought, which posits that while the quest for meaning is a fundamental aspect of the human experience, it is also an inherently personal and often elusive endeavor.

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Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" is a profound exploration of existential themes, capturing the alienation, absurdity, and quest for meaning that define the human condition. Through the surreal and tragic story of Gregor Samsa, Kafka delves into the depths of existential despair, illustrating the loneliness and isolation that accompany the human experience. The novella’s depiction of the absurdity of existence challenges readers to confront the irrational and unpredictable nature of life, while Gregor's search for meaning underscores the existential struggle to find purpose in a seemingly indifferent world. "The Metamorphosis" remains a powerful and enduring work of existential literature, offering a poignant reflection on the complexities of human existence and the eternal quest for understanding and connection.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Existentialism in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. (2024, Jun 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Existentialism in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”.” GradesFixer, 11 Jun. 2024,
Existentialism in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Existentialism in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 11 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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