The Metamorphosis By Kafka Essay, Research Paper
Throughout literary history, certain authors are so unique and fresh in their approach to the written word that they come to embody a genre. Franz Kafka is one such author; Die Verwandlung or The Metamorphosis is one of his works that helped coin the term Kafkaesque. Through this novella, Kafka addresses the timeless theme of people exploit-ing others as a means to an end. He demonstrates this point through showing that a family s unhealthy dependence on the main character results in that character s dependence on the family.
Kafka s unorthodox beginning of The Metamorphosis reads as what would seem to be a climactic moment: As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. The reader is henceforth bound to the story in search of the reason for and meaning of this hideous metamorphosis. Shortly thereafter, the reader may also notice that although Gregor is quite aware of his condition, given these bizarre circumstances he is not at all in the state of panic one might expect. On the contrary, the insect is frustrated that it cannot get out of bed to go to work! As Gregor tries to rouse himself from bed in his present condition, his observation that he himself wasn’t feeling particularly fresh and active is macabre in its passive acknowledgment of the absurdity of his state (p. 855). This sets the tone for the remainder of the first chapter of the story. Gregor, a person typically not a hindered by small aches and pains, (p. 857) clings to his rational nature as he struggles with the slow-in-coming realization that he is more than temporarily incapacitated (p. 863).
The first chapter ends shortly after Gregor reveals his new form. The sight of the insect elicited an expected reaction; its mother understandably retreated aghast and in shock. Correspondingly, the chief clerk that had been sent by Gregor s employer, scrambled in flight as he had quite slipped from his mind (p. 864). Gregor s father was relatively calm (p. 865) until the chief clerk had completed a hastened retreat. Gregor s father, spurred into action by this flight, consequently repelled the insect aggressively and injuriously back into the bedroom from which it had come.
The second chapter illustrates a family and a human-insect trying to adjust to a new reality. Gregor s sister Grete, while never too eager to set eyes on the creature, was compas-sionate enough to feed him. However, as the story progresses this compassion seems to become, or may have always been, obligation. His mother had a waning rather reminiscent sympathy for her son, but she never seemed to reconcile that the creature in the bedroom was the son she had loved. She certainly could not deal with his appearance having fainted at the sight of him (p. 876). As for Gregor s father, he had begun to re-assume responsibility for the family s welfare, which as it turned out, had never been as poor as Gregor had been lead to believe. For Gregor himself, the adjustment was a mix of discovery and disquiet. Adjusting to his body, He especially enjoyed hanging suspended from the ceiling (p. 873). However, the reader also learns that Gregor s health is on the decline as he was fast losing any interest he had ever taken in food (p. 873). It seemed for a while that the family had established a bit of a d tente, but it was not to would last. The end of the second chapter saw Gregor s father gravely wound the insect with an apple thrown into and embedded into the creature s back. It was this wound that eventually became infected and was likely the death of the creature.
In the third and final chapter, the family found the new drudgery of their lives. Their overworked and tired-out family (p. 880) increasingly neglected Gregor. He longed for responsibility and was often haunted by the idea that next time the door opened he would take the family’s affairs in hand again just as he used to do (p. 881). On the contrary, Gregory s family found no satisfaction in the duties of life. Indicative of the family s general disillusionment with responsibility, Gregor s father exhibited a mulishness that had obsessed him since he became a bank messenger (p. 880). The Samsas increasingly found themselves focused on reasons that Gregor was burdensome to them. Kafka writes, what they lamented most was the fact that they could not leave the flat because they could not think of any way to shift Gregor (p. 880). Gregor, in his profound love for his unreciprocating family, wanted to die. They all received their wish when Gregor finally succumbed to his infected would and died. At the end of the story, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa ponder the eventual marriage of their daughter a perfectly normal thing to do.
Kafka uses a unique method of metaphor. He does not say, Gregor is like a bug. He does not say Gregor is bug in a traditional metaphor; rather he says Gregor is a bug literally. The effect is dramatic, as the reader, by virtue of the absurdity of the literalness of situation, is swept-up in trying to stay footed in reality. The effect of this technique is that the reader continues throughout the story to ask the question: why? It is in this pursuit of why that the reader sees Kafka s message: Don t treat people simply as a means, or life will have a way of turning it back on yourself. Through the transformation of Gregor, and the transformation of the family s life, Kafka wants the reader to observe that despite Gregor s metamorphosis into something very un-human, he remains the model of humanity when compared to his family. Not only did the family leech from Gregor, society itself seemed to call upon Gregor not as a person, but to serve as a tool to satisfy their needs. Once transformed, Gregor no longer served well in this capacity. Rather, he became the one in need, and he quickly became more of a burden than he was worth to them.