By: Lauren Beth Kelly
Franz Kafka, best known for his famous work Metamorphosis, and Chuck Palahniuk, best known for Fight Club, are two well-known existentialist authors. In this article, I’ll dive deep into comparative details about various qualities of their works.
Kafka’s Metamorphosis: The protagonist, a traveling salesman, is transformed into a giant insect.
In their pieces, both authors typically present an existentialist style of writing, which emphasizes the individual existence of freedom and choice, where humans define their meaning to make decisions in an irrational universe. In Metamorphosis, the main character’s transformation leaves him with an inability to communicate. In Fight Club, isolationism directed towards material items and possessions is a common theme in which the destruction of vanities is the path to finding characters’ inner selves.
Kafka and Palahniuk also both have produced modernist pieces, which are characterized by a conscious break with traditional ways of writing. Kafka developed his own unique writing style: The term “Kafkaesque” often describes concepts in which characters lack a clear course of action to escape a nightmarish world. Kafkaesque examples also include instances in which bureaucracies control people to the point of helplessness.
Both Palahniuk and Kafka tend commonly to develop a theme of absurdity in their works. For example, Kafka created absurdity by using characters who are punished unjustly. Aspects of legality were also important in Kafka’s work. The law in Kafka’s world usually represents an anonymous force that is oppressive and controlling, in which people are systematically victimized.
Similarly, Palahniuk’s writing often contains anti-consumerist themes. His works tend to represent the struggle of a proletarian at the hands of a higher capitalist power. For example, Palahniuk states that “the central message of Fight Club was always about the empowerment of the individual through small, escalating challenges.”
Kafka’s stories, which are often strange and horrifying, often include a theme in which a father-son dynamic is explored. Other common themes in the work of Kafka include that of brutality, fantasy, and guilt. Characters in Palahniuk’s stories, however, tend to be dark, with a focus on death, morality, childhood or parenthood.
While Kafka’s sentences often end with a surprising twist, Palahniuk mostly uses a limited vocabulary with sentences that portray an actual person telling a story. Palahniuk also “prefers to write in verbs instead of adjectives.”