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Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”: Isolation and Enlightenment

Lynch and Kafka both portray isolation and desperate loneliness in their works. While often interpreted negatively in other works, separation serves as a gateway to a better knowledge of oneself in Eraserhead and Metamorphosis alike. Due to being lonely and separated from others, the protagonists of both stories can better understand what parts of their life they need, as opposed to what society expects them to need.

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There is no doubt that Henry Spencer, the protagonist of Eraserhead, is lonely and isolated from the world around him. The entire character establishing sequence depicts him alone and contrasted to the cyclopean cityscape (Lynch 00:06:05 – 00:08:46). To drive the point further, upon arriving at his apartment building, Spencer searches for mail on his name for several seconds, even though the box is empty (Lynch 00:09:00 – 00:09:06). The character’s isolation is complete, and his loneliness seems absolute in the first minutes of the film.

Another important moment in the introductory scene is when Spencer walks across the piles of rubble. When he steps into dirt and stains his shoe, he tries to clean it by rubbing it against more dirt (Lynch 00:07:04 – 00:07:11). It is as if cleaning the shoe is a mere simulacrum to Spencer – as if he copies the action but cannot comprehend the sense of purpose behind it. One may argue that Spencer’s isolation is already driving him to question society-imposed norms, which he does not feel he needs, at the very beginning of the film.

Gregor Samsa of Kafka’s Metamorphosis undergoes a similar spiritual journey after finding himself transformed into a dung beetle. Bewildered at first, he finds comfort in handing from the ceiling, and his sister even removes the writing desk so that he could climb there more easily (Kafka). Symbolically speaking, Samsa trades the writing desk – the embodiment of the literary culture – for the simple physical position in which he finds it easier to breathe. That might be the point: in his newfound incestuous isolation, Samsa finds enjoyment not in what society would expect him to, but in what corresponds best to his nature.

To summarize, both Lynch and Kafka show isolation as a path to a better knowledge of self. Lonely Spencer in Eraserhead begins perceiving social expectations as strange and alien. Isolated Samsa goes further and rejects the socially appropriate enjoyment in favor of what suits his nature best.

Works Cited

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Assignment Excerpt.

Lynch, David. “Eraserhead Opening.” Vimeo, 2020. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”: Isolation and Enlightenment." April 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/lynchs-eraserhead-and-kafkas-metamorphosis-isolation-and-enlightenment/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”: Isolation and Enlightenment." April 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/lynchs-eraserhead-and-kafkas-metamorphosis-isolation-and-enlightenment/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Lynch’s “Eraserhead” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”: Isolation and Enlightenment'. 21 April.

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