In both The Stranger by Albert Camus and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, the main female characters play a large role in the story. In The Stranger Marie is in love with Meursault. When Meursault refuses to respond to Marie’s love she gets upset. In The Metamorphosis Grete is the sister of Gregor. When Gregor turns into a vermin it is Grete’s responsibility to take care of him. Both Marie and Grete are enslaved to their relationship with their male companions; which ultimately leads to their dissatisfaction.
Relationships, of any type, cause the people involved to become enslaved. Marie and Grete were both in a relationship. In The Metamorphosis Grete is in a brother – sister relationship with Gregor and because of their relationship, Grete takes care of her brother. One day Gregor decides to try not to cause his sister “unpleasantness”1 and hides under the couch and watches her as she enters the room.
She didn’t catch sight of him at once, but when she noticed him under the couch – God, he had to be somewhere, he couldn’t have flown away – she received such a fright that, unable to control herself, she slammed the door again from outside. But, as if regretting her behavior, she immediately opened the door again and walked in on tiptoe as if she were visiting a seriously ill person or even a stranger.”2
Grete is trying so desperately to be strong for her brother that she is putting away her fears of him so that she can take care of him. Grete is so ensnarled by her relationship with her brother that she would rather work towards helping him than allowing herself to be happy. Marie is also dedicated to her boyfriend, Meursault. On the day that Meursault and Marie are planning to go to the beach with Raymond, Marie had to wake Meursault up. “I had a hard time waking up on
Sunday, and Marie had to call me and shake me”3. Marie is so entangled in her relationship with Meursault that she has sunk to playing the role of his mom. It is not a girlfriend’s job to wake up
her boyfriend. The role of waking anybody up is usually given to parents. Meursault allowed Marie to treat him like her child which is not the relationship that Marie wants to have with him. Where she wants a husband – wife relationship, he only sees her as a way to fulfill his needs. Both Marie and Grete are so wrapped up in their relationship with their male counterparts that they put the men’s happiness before their own. When somebody puts somebody else’s happiness before their own, it is hard for the former to achieve their own happiness, leaving them unsatisfied. Where Marie’s relationship was with her boyfriend, Grete’s was with her brother. Although seemingly different, the effects of the relationship are the same.
It is impossible to maintain a happy relationship without communication. Both Grete and
Marie lacked communication with the males around them. In The Stranger Marie is constantly trying to pull Meursault’s feelings out of him. After Raymond had invited Meursault to the beach, Marie went to Meursault’s house.
That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her.
I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to.
Then she wanted to know if I loved her. I answered the same way I had the
last time, that it didn’t mean anything but that I probably didn’t lover her4.
In this passage, Marie is desperately trying to understand how Meursault feels about their relationship. His failure to respond with any real passion shows a lack of communication. Grete also experiences a lack of communication with Gregor in The Metamorphosis. After Gregor transformed into a vermin, Grete, Gregor’s sister, immediately took the role of caring for the insect. Gregor, after eating the food that his sister had left for him, watched his sister clean up after him.
In between brief bouts of asphyxia, with slightly protruding eyes he watched
his unsuspecting sister sweep together with a broom not only the leftovers of
what he had eaten, but even the foods Gregor hadn’t touched at all, as if those
too were no longer usable; and he saw how she hastily dropped everything into
a bucket which she closed with a wooden cover, and then carried everything
out. She had scarcely turned around when Gregor moved out from under
the couch, stretched and let himself expand5.
During the period of time that Grete was cleaning up after Gregor, Grete never said a word to her brother. The lack of communication between Grete and Gregor ultimately leads to Grete’s unhappiness. The lack of dialogue between Grete and Gregor throughout the story shows how distant the two really are. Both Grete and Marie experienced a lack of communication with the males in their life. This eventually leads to the isolation and unhappiness of both women. Where Marie was trying to convince Meursault to communicate, Grete was refusing to talk to, let alone acknowledge, Gregor. This lack of communication causes walls to build up around each individual so that the little communication that existed disappears. This causes both Grete and Marie to become isolated and dissatisfied.
Relations sometimes can cause resentment in a person. Both Grete and Marie feel some sort of resent towards Gregor or Meursault. Grete had to take care of Gregor since he transformed into a vermin. When Gregor’s mother had seen Gregor on the wall while removing the furniture from his room, his mother got very upset. This caused Grete to react. “‘Just wait, Gregor!’ called the sister with raised fist and piercing glances. Those were the first words she had addressed to him directly since the transformation”6. Grete was tired of having to take care of her brother and it caused her to snap and the anger that she felt towards Gregor spewed forth. Marie, although frustrated by the lack of compassion that she received from Meursault, did not
get upset at Meursault. During Meursault’s court case, Marie was called to the witness stand to be question. After the lawyer questioned her, Marie started to cry. “But all of the sudden Marie began to sob, saying it wasn’t like that, there was more to it, and that she was being made to say
the opposite of what she was thinking, that she knew me and I hadn’t done anything wrong”7. Although Marie didn’t get mad at Meursault per say, she was upset at what Meursault had gotten her involved in. If Marie had not been having a relationship with Meursault, she would never have had to experience the court case and therefore never had to have felt the anger towards the lawyer. It was because of Meursault that she was upset. Both Grete and Marie felt frustration that was caused by their relationships. Although Marie’s outbreak was not directed at Meursault, her anger was still indirectly caused by him. Grete’s frustration was directed to Gregor and caused by him. The resentment that the two women felt led to their eventual dissatisfaction.
Both women are enslaved to their relationship with their male counterparts which leads to their unhappiness. Marie is trapped in a relationship with Meursault that has caused her to become isolated, resentful and enslaved to Meursault’s happiness. Grete is alone, angry and a slave to her relationship with her brother, Gregor. Both these women could have been strong women had they not been tied down by the men in their lives. They have become slaves to the whims of their male counterparts and it has caused the two women grief, pain and anger. Their relationships with the men in their lives led them to a life full of dissatisfaction.