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The authors of these two stories exemplify the absurdity of life through writing. Depersonalization of human relationships during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century because of the then widespread social and historical upheavals brought about a general feeling of alienation and rootlessness in people. The disintegration of life and society triggered a sense of inner anxiety and anguish. This developed into themes of loneliness, loss, and meaninglessness in the whole purpose of life. A variety of discourses on existentialism were therefore provoked, putting in question the meaning of man's existence in this disordered and impersonal world. These two authors belonged to this modern era of disorientation and alienation. They both portray their protagonists as estranged victims who are forced to lead an absurd life in a world that is familiar yet so strange. Usually absurdity emerges from anxiety, which leads individuals to break from their everyday and routine chores. What used to be normal becomes the cause of the anxiety. The reasonable is replaced with the irrational, the familiar with the weird. Everything becomes absurd but the victim is not responsible and therefore does not have a permanent solution to the isolation. There develops a gap between reality and thought, the world and man. This is what sums up as absurdity, a concept that is clearly brought out in these two pieces of work (Saunders 1).
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When reading these two stories one comes to a realization that sooner or later most individuals will come to grips with their relative unimportance. They become aware that they are just but tiny specks on a busy planet that is diverse. That they can easily slip through the many cracks of their loose social systems. For instance it is easy in the present world for one to get lost in some of the world's towering and complicated cities. People know that they have lost most of the strings that tied them to the previous generations. To many people this realization comes as a shock. For instance, in The Woman in the Dunes, the reality of his insignificance strikes Niki Junpei, Kobe Abe's hero, mercilessly into the bottom of a deep sand pit with no possibility of ever getting out. In the Wedding Preparation in the Country, Kafka brings out the mundane and very mechanical life of Raban, his main character. Raban ees his isolated life as a meaningless and dreadful existence in an impersonal world. Just like Niki, he is also isolated from reality. He observes a dense materiality and the world's hostility, a sense that makes him wish that he were an insect and escape from this unfair world, a world full of people who torment him. In the Woman in the Dunes, Niki had a desire to move away from his society in pursuit of insects and ended up a captive. These two characters are trapped in an absurd situation of alienation and nonexistence (Duttlinger 116).
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The theme of existentialism is brought out in The Woman in the Dunes when Niki embarks on a tour in the hope of discovering a new insect. He comes upon a strange village which, from the look of things, appears to be struggling for survival. Missing to catch up with the bus, he seeks shelter from the village, a request the villagers gladly grant him. He is lowered into a dune with a lone woman there as the only occupant, oblivious of the fact that the villagers do not intend to let him out ever. He therefore comes to realize that he is a hostage and also that no one will ever come looking for him. The world he was living in has suddenly changed, has become strange. He forced to come to terms with the idea that he has to stay with the woman. Their relationship is therefore complicated; the woman needs him to survive the very hostile environment of the dunes. To her that is his only functional purpose, working alongside her, clearing the dunes each night, but in this closed environment they can't stop themselves from the developing awkward relationship. These posses' questions as to why things which are supposed to be normal have become so confusing, why are men and women so aggressive to one another, why have individuals forgotten how to really connect with one another? This is exactly what is called existential absurdity. The story represents the struggle by human to assert their own consequence, a demonstration of the hidden repressive tendencies of an ordinary human and a hopelessly beautiful interpretation of the ultimate authority of nature (Saunders 1).
Just as Niki viewed the woman in the pit as an out of place person, so did Raban view his wife to be. Looking at a photo of his fiancée, he says, "How hunched she is, she is never really upright and perhapss her back is round." He sees everything wrong with her including the dress. But just like Niki he finds himself with no other option but to go a head with the wedding plans. There are no feelings of love between these two people. Raban feels a sense of alienation and even repulsion. Earlier own he was too reluctant to wake up, he wishes that he could send his body so that he could stay in bed. He wishes he were an insect, a beetle, a stag beetle or a cockchafer. He regrets that he has to leave home; he sees the whole trip as an unpleasant, socially demanding experience, but one he has to go through nevertheless. That is exactly what happens to Nick in the Woman in the Dunes, he does not see himself staying with her, but because there is no way out he is forced to go through it. This wishful fantasy creates an imaginary split between selfish pleasure and social duty. It suggests an idea of social identity as just a sartorial surface that lacks any psychological core, bringing the concept of existential absurdity. Raban's dream to turn into a beetle so that his inner body could stay at home while the physical body, the one that represents the social part of his life, goes out into the world, brings out the concept of self alienation together with alienation from other beings including those intimate ones. In both pieces of work, the main characters, that is, Niki and Raban represent bachelor figures whose bachelorhood has been threatened by the imminent company of the opposite sex. Raban wishes to turn into a beetle and in the other story, Niki's life turns into one resembling that of a beetle that lives in a hole in the earth and performs an absurd act each day in order to survive (Duttlinger 116).
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All the incidences and events in these two pieces of work seem improbable but the casual acceptance of transformation by the characters creates what can be said to be a sense of mystery. This strange and mysterious force can be taken to be the existential concept of what we have called the absurd. In the two pieces of work, the authors bring out the idea that sooner or later humans have to come to grips with the reality, with their relative insignificance, that this world is full of contradictions whereby, the strange and the familiar, the rational and the irrational, reality and illusion, existence and nonexistence, co-exist.
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