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Analysis of Classic Literature Piece ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka
Here are some random thoughts about the themes and the meaning of the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
I must agree with that there are many ways of reading Kafka. And when it comes to “reading” it’s mainly the reader who decides what’s the true meaning of the text. Especially when the text is not trying to be categorical in any sense. Which is the way with Kafka and the beauty of his writing?
When I first read it, I thought that you can also consider the metamorphosis of Gregor as a parable relating to how families deal with disability. If Gregor had a bleed into the brain (a stroke), he may well lose the use of his legs, and his speech would be slurred. His family cannot spend money on his health as they don’t have much, his eating would be a public embarrassment with food falling out of his mouth. Looking through this lens (at the story), we see his family removing obstacles from his room just after the change, and then again cluttering his room when it is obvious that he will not recover. From being a valued breadwinner, Gregor becomes a burden. When he dies, they say that the real Gregor died long ago. There are lots of ways of reading Kafka, and I like lots of his books. Surrealist? yes, but certainly insightful of his fellow men.
1. Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect, which is a very unlikely thing to happen, a rather supernatural occurrence, but the absurdity of this world lies in that there’s nothing certain at all, that there’s a possibility that Gregor Samsa really could change into an insect, or anybody else.
2. Gregor Samsa and his family show little surprise or a rather negligible one at the transformation of Gregor, more than that, they never try to cure him (they even dismiss the idea of calling a doctor which occurred to them before they knew what happened.), and they never wonder why and how this happened in the first place, including Gregor, they all try to adapt to the situation which gives startle a range of thoughts:
The Metamorphosis of Gregor was not surprising, meaning that it was possible and anticipated and there were indications for it prior to its happening, and the metaphor of the metamorphosis here is the key to understanding how the family reacted in that sense.
– Maybe the metaphor here is the automated, alienated life that Gregor led, which is void of any human appreciation, cold emotions, and failed communication and which had turned him already into an insect, a working vermin to satisfy basic and material needs, just to provide to himself and his family, disregarding important emotional sides of his life. I quote his mother at the earliest page of the novel giving excuses to his boss for him being late at work “ He’s not well sir, believe me. Why else would Gregor miss a train! All that boy think about is work. It almost makes me mad the way he never goes out in the evening.”
– A very important observation is how Gregor keeps denying his metamorphosis, in the beginning, again I will repeat, Gregor almost never wonders why it happened to him trying relentlessly to adapt to this mishap. Which may suggest that the metaphor that he was already a vermin, or rather an android, inhumane person from way before the metamorphosis, the metamorphosis here is psychological, is that he started to notice the failure of communication (the failure of communication is another motif repeated in a variety of situation) and the rather purposeless life he’s leading, only then everything began to fall apart.
3. An important motif and essential to the shaping of the story is money and the way the family is – including Gregor – horrified at the possibility that he would lose his work, and after they find out about his transformation, money still the main issue they take into account while making decisions. Another motif is how they glorify their employers, the way they deal with the clerk from the beginning, the boarders from near the end of the story, the way the father never gets out of his uniform!
4. Another absurd theme is the “metamorphosis” that happened to the family after Gregor’s transformation, Although Gregor was providing to them and he was successful to the degree that they ceased to be surprised by his success and started dealing with it as a normality (adaptability again), they never showed how grateful they were to Gregor as if they were never aware of it. And when Gregor was unable to do anything every one of them started to get out of his hibernation and try to find work, only then they didn’t only care less about Gregor but it seemed that they were transformed into an earlier Gregor, alienated and cold, clouded by materialistic and absurd endeavors, and only then they started finding the existence of Gregor as a great burden that must be ended.
5. Investigating further the almost unconditional adaptability of humans and their very little effort of questioning how their world shape up let alone change it. Gregor denies his transformation at first then try to find the best way to walk, the best place to sit and sleep, the best food to devour. Not once he wonders why he became what he is now. The family does not seek by any means to cure Gregor or find a solution to what happened to him and again, almost never question the sense beyond this incident. Does this suggest that we humans, only deal with suffering from embedding more suffering in our lives? How absurd could that be?
I am sure there are a lot more than that to it, maybe after another reading, I will be changing this or adding more to it, but one sure thing is that the metamorphosis is a very cruel and harsh critique of human existence and how we run our lives meaninglessly.
Albeit the story’s premise may seem supernatural, the extreme handling of the topic that Kafka chose only helps more dissecting our lives. I look everywhere and see Gregor and his family even in my life.