In Kobo Abe's novel The Woman in the Dunes, the protagonist, Niki Jumpei, a teacher and amateur entomologist, takes a desert trip to escape, seeking solitude and finds it in a pit of sand. He is imprisoned at the bottom of the pit with a young woman who shovels away at the sand that threatens to consume the village. The Sisyphus myth, the sand, and existentialism itself come together to create a metaphor of human predicament.
The woman is a modern version of the Sisyphus myth, the man condemned by the gods to spend eternity rolling a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it roll back down. The woman continuously shovels away at the sun to keep her home from being buried within it, only to have the sand come back the next night. The woman shoveling away at ever-advancing sand is a metaphor for human predicaments because of the whole idea that when an impossible task is achieved all will be well.
Asking or begging for something only to be told that something else must be accomplished in order to receive the thing that is most desired. Only to realize, in the end, that the task is completely absurd but being much too stubborn to give up.
The sand has an identity entirely of its own. It seeps into the crevices of the house tearing it apart from the inside. "The very fact that it had no form was doubtless the highest manifestation of its strength," because "not a single thing could stand against this shapeless, destructive power" (31). Because sand does not have a form, it becomes increasingly difficult to escape from. Sand is a cleverly disguised obstacle that no matter how much effort he puts into it, he cannot climb...