In literature, the message that is seen in the text all depends on the reader. There are many point of views and styles of literary criticism which the reader can choose to follow. Each style is completely different philosophy, so thus each criticism finds different messages than the others. A philosophy that is used in literary criticism is existentialism. Dealing with human existence and condition, existentialism was founded in the 1920s, during the time when colleges were only for the scholars, and literature first moved to the universities.
Existentialism is often a form of literary criticism that is overlooked. Its influence on literature is there, but hardly ever recognized. Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature gives a brief description of existentialism as “A family of philosophies devoted to an interpretation of human existence in the world that stresses its concreteness and its problematic character. The philosophers involved were Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sarte, Gabriel Marcel, and Marice Merleau-Ponty. According to the existentialist, people have the desire to act, not just know the situation. Also, the ego is not made when a person is born, but instead is shaped in a unique way
All the "big" questions of society, according to existentialism will never be answered with science, thought, or reasoning. However, man must live with the choice he makes and the action he takes since his action will not only affect himself, but also the action affects the person that it is acted upon. " (Spender 257) Spender defends that the plot is just what it is: Gregor"tms attempt to adapt to change, the neglect and disgrace of the family and his employer felt for him which ultimately led to his death. Existentialism is apparent in "The Metamorphosis" since Gregor himself is an existentialist. Humans have the natural desire to make choices. As the plot progresses, Gregor conscience does dwindle down to an insects, but instead he remains lucidly human. Because of this, the reader is able to watch the disintegration of Kafka"tms mental condition, which ultimately leads to his death. The lucid humanity in Gregor makes the story even more tragic since the reader watches as Gregor deteriorates first because of his self-imposed isolation and then with the forced isolation that his family put on to him. Outside his work, he really does not have any relationships with the people around him. He remains alienated from his family and society due to his scary appearance and the scary sounds he makes from his mouth. The responsibility becomes an important part of existentialism. He also separates himself from society. Another form of existentialism ideal is isolationism and action. While maybe the mother saw it as a time of happiness and family gathering, the father could see it as a nuisance since it was interrupting him from his work. " (256) Kafka goes into no detail by what he had meant as "an indiscretion," but instead he questions whether it was right to questions one"tms family "bugs," almost as an allusion to "The Metamorphosis.