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Examples of Existentialism

Sai Kardile
The philosophical idea of existentialism came into being when people were feeling dubious about their own being. Existential ideas are venerated by some and censured by some. One can't ignore the goodly influence it wields on different spheres of life. Here are some examples of existentialism.
"Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest."
Ernest Becker
After the Second World War, when death crept up in the form of bestial atrocities and impassioned hatred for humanity, the aftermath didn't just reverberate depression and anxiety, but ennui and hopelessness―a parasitic condition that wrung the proverbial ray of hope.
By the onset of the 20th century, a new phalanx of philosophers and writers appeared who were determined to guard their lives from outside forces and established beliefs, and live a life that was a product of their own choice. These were existentialists.
While existentialists opined that life without a purpose is meaningless, consolidated our natural yen for freedom, and spoke about the responsibility that accompanied our choice, they accepted anxiety as an inevitability of life. This inescapable tag-along is bred very much by our own choice, isolation, and fear of death.
However, the existentialists believe that these very fears impel us to do something meaningful in our lives; this can be likened to living a life like a person who is living on a borrowed time; he is aware of the unavoidable, and thus chooses to make most of every moment of his life.
As mentioned earlier, existentialism has nourished the creative-famished minds of many writers, filmmakers, philosophers, artists, et al who in turn, wrought stories, theories, and characters that were enrobed with existentialistic elements. In the following examples, we discuss the existentialism ideas that inspired people from different spheres of life.

Understanding Existentialism through Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a short story by Franz Kafka that is replete with existentialist ideas. The premise of the story is centered around Gregor Samsa and his family, and how his metamorphosis into a vermin changes the life he lived before as a human.
His transmogrification from a human to a monstrous vermin lends him a different perspective of life. As opposed to the meek son who devoted his life to working to settle the family's debt, he now develops sense of his own identity and gives up on the fallacy that his life is dictated by society.
• Existentialism is pivoted on the belief that life is irrational and holds no meaning, unless we give it a meaning by working toward a purpose, and Kafka's style of writing remains existentialistic at large.
• Another good example of existentialism that Kafka gives is through Gregor's grappling with his conscious―his human side that is governed by reason and helps him take decisions versus the subconscious, instinctual side of him as a result of his transformation.
Gregor's instinctual self symbolizes a man's natural need to make a choice against societal perceptions. Read The Metamorphosis to understand more about existentialism.

Existentialism in Movies

Existentialism remains a popular thematic choice for movie makers. Films on existentialism have mostly focused on bamboozled characters who try to make sense in an illogical and absurd world. The basic idea gravitates towards the existentialistic belief that life is what you decide for yourself and that life, in itself, is apathetic.
The world we live in is larded with anxiety and doubt; hence, it is for the 'self' to take his own decisions than allow others to draw in the reins.

Freedom, choice, responsibility, absurdity, and confusion are existentialism elements that have been vastly explored in movies.
The following are some of the best existentialism movies to watch:

1. Modern Times (1936)
2. The Killers (1946)
3. Ikiru (1952)
4. The Trial (1962)
5. The Swimmer (1968)
6. Shame (1968)
7. Easy Rider (1969)
8. Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
9. Stalker (1979)
10. The Truman Show (1998)

Other Existentialism Examples in Literature

• "Existence precedes essence" is the idea on which the whole philosophy of existentialism is posited on.
Writings of famous existential philosophers like Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre in the 19th and 20th century are reckoned as classical explanations of existential philosophy.
• Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard that focuses on Abraham's blind faith in God is the considered as one of the earlier works of Christian existentialism.
• Jean-Paul Sartre's epistolary novel, Nausea essentially revolves around a 30-year-old Antoine Roquentin, whose growing nausea towards his own existence reflects the anguish stemming from freedom and responsibility.
• L'Étranger or The Stranger by Albert Camus is centered around the protagonist's absurdity with existential elements at play. A remorseless Meursault's isolation and the ultimate understanding of the apathetic nature of the universe, makes The Stranger a good example of existentialism.
• Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the easiest to understand example of existentialism, where Alice, for the most part, struggles to put meaning in her life at wonderland.
Irrationality, violations of etiquette, confusion, risk, and freedom of choice are some of the typical existential ideas explored in the novel.
• Shakespeare's Hamlet is another example of existentialism as Shakespeare maintains the existential attitude throughout that enmeshes existential concepts of meaning, distress, absurdity, essence, and responsibility with the protagonist.
This philosophic endeavor continues to bamboozle and intrigue people at the same time and undeniably remains a rich source of inspiration to those who seek to portray humans in absurd or meaningless situations.