Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Analytical Essay
The Metamorphosis is one of the main novels by a famous Austrian writer Franz Kafka. In addition, it is one of the most bright and impressive works of modern literature. The main subject of the novel is the family relations and problem of a person’s worthiness in the society. The main character of the story, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning and realizes that he transformed into a terrible bug.
This fantastic change of the main character is just an artistic mean which serves as a basis and background for other actions and other metamorphoses in his family and society that surrounds him.
Thus, the central motif of the story is the “metamorphosis” of a person and society. The Metamorphosis analysis essay shall examine the main topics of the short novel. The author explores and analyses such social problems as a person’s worthiness and the ills of society, making use of a mixture of fantasy and reality, allegories, and analysis of the psychology of the society. The Metamorphosis provides a deep insight into the human soul and family relations in the middle-class Australian family.
Analysis of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis from Modernism Perspective
In the novel, the author emphasizes that society is hostile, and it does not need unproductive members. In order to show social-person relations, the author shows the relationships of the protagonist with his family. It is a typical and, at the same time, unique work of the modern period.
As has already been mentioned, the Metamorphosis is a work that contains all traits of modernist literature. It explores the ideas of individualism and contradiction of a person and society. The main subject of modernistic literature is the problems of modern life and the role of the individual who faces these problems.
What does The Metamorphosis have in common with many other works of literature? The works of modernistic literature are marked with pessimism and a response to the emerging city life and its society. The stream of consciousness is the leading literary convention used to transfer the absurdness of life and an individual’s attitude to the world.
Extensive use of comparisons, personifications, intertextuality, and psychoanalysis are the significant signs of modernism. The Metamorphosis, as a typical example of the modernistic literature, contains many symbols and metaphors, “Kafka often used a plainly described world of persecution in which one irrational element would be introduced to complete the narrative down an absurd path” (Childs 125).
This work can be challenging to analyze for the unprepared reader, and different readers can find different themes and meanings in this novel as there are plenty of them. However, the line, which every reader notices, is the line of changes that are discovered at different levels. The first change is a physical change of the protagonist “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” (Kafka 13).
The second change occurs with the mental state of the protagonist when he becomes aloof of the outer world, and “he was showing so little consideration for the others” (Kafka 22). Finally, the third line of changes appears within his family and its attitude to the protagonist. All these changes appear in real and fantastic context and, “Kafka’s ability to successfully join the fantastic and the real is often noted as being at the root of his genius” (Bloom 34).
The piece of writing has strict structure and develops in chronological order. The story opens with the scene when Gregor Samsa, a young man from a middle-class family, wakes up in the morning and discovers that he transformed into a terrible insect. The beginning of the story immediately provokes excitement and suspense. What is interesting is that Gregor does not feel worried about his transformation, but he is concerned about the fact that he will miss a train and will be late for a job. He had never missed even a day and, “in fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet been ill.” (Kafka 16).
The fact of transformation is a strong literary convention that helps the author to explore the main subjects in his work.
Symbolism in the Novel: Summary
After having transformed into a terrible insect, Gregor preserves his human soul, and he is still worried about his family, and he needs help and support of his family. But he receives them neither from his parents nor from his sister. The only thing that concerns them is that their single “source of income” will not be able to bring money. The only things that Gregor receives from his family are anger, fear, and even aggression.
Even the fact that this insect is their son and brother cannot excite their understanding and compassion. In his turn, Gregor understands his family members and makes everything possible not to bother them. Reading the novel, one realizes that behind the appearance of the bug, there is a king and tender soul of a young man.
Gregor tries to bring fewer concerns to his parents and family, he does not leave his room not to frighten his mother and hides under the bed when his sister cleans the room. A tense atmosphere in the family grows. All family members are starting to hate Gregor, and they behave as if he is not a human anymore.
The breaking point for the story comes when Grete, Gregor’s sister, declares that the insect in the room is not Gregor anymore and just a bug and they have to get rid of him:
“Things cannot go on any longer in this way. Maybe if you don’t understand that, well, I do. I will not utter my brother’s name in front of this monster, and thus I say only that we must try to get rid of it. We have tried what is humanly possible to take care of it and to be patient. I believe that no one can criticize us in the slightest.” (Kafka, 137).
The same night Gregor dies, and nobody misses him.
The problem of the individual and person’s worthiness appears though the text. When Gregor was still a human, he was discontent with his job but did it to pay the debts of his father. Thus, the author explores the conflict of society and human existence in it. Gregor’s transformation in the insect was a logical continuation of his involuntary dependence and his unhappy human life. The allusion to the insect is not accidental.
The bug is unprotected in front of society, as well as Gregor’s life was. After the transformation, the life in the family changed, “the house soon started to fall apart; the household was reduced more and more.” (Kafka 111). However, it was not for a long time.
Soon, a metamorphosis occurred to other members of the family as well. Gregor’s father “turned from a lethargic, failed businessman to a productive, active member of the work force” (Bloom, 44). The family does not need Gregor anymore.
They have got money, and it is the only thing they wanted from Gregor. It may seem that family’s attitude to Gregor changed after his metamorphosis. However, it is evident that this change only discovered the truth. Thus, Gregor was only a “machine” that brought money. It was his primary role in the family.
His family treats him as a working “bug.” However, not only his family but also the society where he lived as well treat him this way. He discovers that he was not worthy of anything, and even if he dies, nobody will notice it.
Gregor lived as a bug, and he transformed into a bug. But, the readers are not horrified with the transformation, but with the terrible attitude to a poor young man. Even the view of the reader suffers changes. We feel compassion towards Gregor, and his family’s behavior fills us with indignation. A terrible everyday life and attitude of parents to their son seem to be unacceptable. However, it is a terrible reality that depicts a real social structure.
What Aspect of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Can Readers Mostly Relate to Today?
In the character of Gregor Samsa, the author focused not only on the individual problem of one young man but the problem of the whole society. This novel is the brightest expression of the tragic perception of the world that was a characteristic feature of all Kafka’s works.
The situation of transformation can be interpreted in different ways. It may concern a family and social alienation, the loneliness of a person capable of compassion and self-sacrifice, one’s difference from others. Kafka depicts the protagonist’s mental and spiritual isolation as a result of his metamorphosis.
The author shows the essence of society realistic and believable: you are a member of the community while you can perform your job and serve it. However, if you are not capable of doing it, society does not need you anymore and can even get read of you.
Gregor is an unproductive individual, and his family is a symbol of the society which does not want to accept the one who does not bring any profit. In this novel. Kafka emphasizes the fact of human vulnerability in society. A person is just a powerless and helpless “toy” doomed to be lonely, even among the closest people, his/her family.
The Metamorphosis is an innovative work in the world of prose. It is full of symbolic and metaphorical images that emphasize the tragedy of a person’s fate, the alienation of the personality, its helplessness in front of society. The novel depicts the hostile world. It is one of the stories that make people think about “questions of life.”
It makes it one of the best modernistic works of literature and the most examined and criticized novels. As The Metamorphosis analysis essay evidences, different people can find different themes in this book. However, the dominant theme is the alienation of the person and its relations with society. Through the description of family relations in the Gregor’s family, the author makes allusions to the relationships in modern society.
The author provides the idea that society is cruel, and it does not need unproductive people. This idea is closely interrelated with the social problem of a person’s worthiness in the world. The author expresses his vision of the person’s role in society, making use of the fantastic transformation of the protagonist in the bug.
Bloom, Harold. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006.
Childs, Peter. Modernism. New York, Routledge, 2008.
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Delaware: Prestwick House Inc, 2005.
“Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka Essay (Book Review)
Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” is a well knit literary piece in the fiction genre that puts together the shifting events of Gregor; a good man who turned into an insect and his world completely changed. The author takes the reader through Gregor’s black comical escapades that are more satirical than their surface depiction.
This context embarks on an analysis of the key aspects of this book in a bid to unravel the author’s message, while at the same time noting the literary worth of Kafka’s masterpiece. A thorough scrutiny into Gregor experiences casts real scenes in Franz Kafka’s past life which was miserable and pathetic just like the symbolic cockroach Grogor metamorphosized into.
Told from the third person perspective, Kafka uses an intelligent approach by narrating the story from the protagonist’s viewpoint, and all the readers use Gregor’s eyes as the lens to view the events in the story. Significant emphasis is attached to his feelings and thoughts in an effort to bring out his current understanding of the world prior to his mutation and after his metamorphosis.
It is important to note that, irony is used to disapprove Gregor’s thoughts which were exactly the opposite in reality. The target audience in this story is the people who spend their entire life working to please others and forget about their own needs.
Kafka’s choice of diction is sufficient and well calculated. The opening of the story clearly introduces the main story to the reader with the creation of a pathetic image in the mind of the readers. The words that Kafka uses to describe the insect Gregor changed into. ……“domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top” creates an image of a cockroach in the readers mind though Kafka does not directly mention the actual name of the insect.
In addition, Kafka’s use of simple words and sentence structures that are easy to understand, makes reading this book an interesting experience. However, the author’s tone from the surface may be termed comic but a deeper analysis portrays a lot of satire and sarcasm. In the midst of comedy, the protagonist fights for his salvation from his guilt and alienation; all resulting from his working conditions.
Among the major themes portrayed is alienation, which is facilitated by the irrational nature of the universe. Gregor was a good person who sacrificed his own life to work and take care of his family yet when the worst happened to him, they left him all alone. Disconnection of the mind from the body poses as another major theme. Though Gregor’s body has changed into an insect, his humanity remains.
This further shows the unending conflict in the story as Gregor tries to make sense of his insect life on one side, and his family takes him for the pathetic cockroach he has become on the other side. Sympathy and its limits emerges as a theme when all his family members find jobs and finally give up on him and leave him all alone.
A look into the stylistic devices adopted, metaphor is widely used throughout the story. Gregor’s transformation into an insect is metaphorical as it incapacitates him; he cannot talk, when he talks he cannot be heard, his family cannot see his need to live a free life even in his transformed shape and he is a disgrace.
The insect clearly explains Gregor’s state and he has to bear it all alone because no one understands him. The setting is also used as style: It is suffocating and mentally disturbing as well psychologically distressing. This can be evidenced by the four walls of Gregor’s room and their dining room. Through the setting, Kafka uses character development to take the reader through the stages of transformation of Gregor till his death.
This text is important as it shows the predicament of the modern man. The world relationships have become more parasitic and people value others based on what they can give. With reference to “Metamorphosis” by Kafka, the bad always get away with their actions and the good suffers in the hands of the bad. Though this story can trace back into the 20th century, it perfectly fit in the real arena of the 21st century survival.
Kafka’s Stories “A Hunger Artist”, “Jackals and Arabs” and “The Metamorphosis” Essay
One of the reasons why Franz Kafka was able to gain the fame of one of 20th century’s most prominent writers is that his literary works contain many motifs/themes, closely associated with a number of people’s subconscious anxieties.
In this paper, I will aim to substantiate the validly of an earlier suggestion in regards to Kafka’s short stories A Hunger Artist, Jackals and Arabs and The Metamorphosis, as literary works that are being concerned with exploring the themes of alienation, surrealism and self-sacrifice, which in turn explains these stories’ an essentially subliminal appeal to the reading audiences.
A Hunger Artist
The most striking characteristic of Kafka’s short story A Hunger Artist is that in it, the author had shown that socially alienated introverts might nevertheless pass for being nothing short of extraverts. As it appears from this particular story, the actual reason why the character of a hunger artist was growing ever bitterer is that he sensed that the viewing audiences did not appreciate real motivations behind his public performances.
Whereas; Kafka’s hunger artist strived to be recognized as someone who had a plenty of will power to derive pleasure out of suppressing its own animalistic instincts, spectators never ceased thinking of his performances as having been solely motivated by the artist’s essentially animalistic hunger for fame and money.
The soundness of this suggestion can be well illustrated in relation to the story’s scene in which butchers (hired to observe artist at night, so that he would not have a chance of eating any sneaked out food) preoccupy themselves with playing cards – hence, allowing the hunger artist to have a bite.
Apparently, it never even occurred to them that the artist was a perfectly honest individual, totally incapable of cheating: “During the period of fasting the hunger artist would never, under any circumstances, have eaten the slightest thing, not even if compelled by force. The honour of his art forbade it”. It was namely due to the artist’s continuous exposure to people’s arrogance that he started to yield to depression.
However, being utterly unable to recognize artist’s existential nobleness, as the actual driving force behind his act, spectators could not help worsening the situation with artist’s mental state even further, because they arrogantly thought that the deterioration of his physical condition was brought about by his fasting as ‘thing in itself’.
Yet, this was far from being the case. As it appears from the story, nothing could satisfy the hunger-artist’s longing for self-realization better than being provided with an opportunity to do what he used to do the best – practicing an extreme form of fasting. Therefore, it would only be logical, on our part, to suggest that the artist’s ultimate demise came as a result of him never ceasing to remain strongly alienated from the rest of society.
Jackals and Arabs
The reading of a short story Jackals and Arabs leaves no doubt as to the fact that this story’s foremost thematic element is being of clearly surreal nature.
The reason for this is simple – it is not only that the characters of jackals, featured in the story, are shown as being endowed with perfectly human psychological traits (they experience hate, fear, hope), but they can also speak human language: “I’m the oldest jackal for miles around. I’m happy I’m still able to welcome you here”. Jackals approach the narrator and begin to elaborate on how much they hate Arabs, as utterly filthy people, whose religious practices undermine the cleanliness of a surrounding environment.
This, however, is not only the single aspect to story’s clearly defined surrealist sounding. After all, it is not the encounter with jackals that can speak human voices, which amazes narrator as something rather impossible, but the fact that jackals appear to have been anticipating his arrival.
Such narrator’s reaction, of course, cannot be referred to as anything but strongly surreal, because it only makes logical sense within the framework of a story’s semantic content. The same can be said about story’s setting, which provide a surreal authenticity to plot’s unraveling.
There is also a surreal quality to the image of rusty scissors, which jackals used to carry along with them. Even though, when it comes to slashing people’s throats, one would be so much better off using a knife, the author made a deliberate point in representing scissors, as the intended instrument of Arabs’ punishment. Apparently, Kafka wanted to increase the story’s surreal appeal even further.
Just as it is being the case with the motifs in Salvador Dali’s paintings, which despite their seeming oddness make a perfectly good sense to those aware of the essence of Dali’s worldviews, clearly surreal undertones to Jackals and Arabs also appear fully explainable to those who have been introduced to Kafka’s biography.
One of the foremost thematic elements in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is self-sacrifice. Even throughout story’s introductory part the theme of self-sacrifice is being featured rather prominently. After having been turned into a bug, the story’s main character Gregor Samsa does not think of his metamorphosis in terms of a personal tragedy, but solely in terms of how it may affect the members of his family.
This alone portrays Gregor as an individual endowed with an acute sense of social responsibleness, who does not think of ensuring of its personal well-being as such that represents his foremost priority. Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, throughout story’s consequential phases, Gregor continues to act in a strongly defined sacrificial manner.
For example, while being perfectly aware of the fact that his family members find his new appearance utterly appalling, Gregor tries not to come out of his room, even though not being to socialize with his loved ones does hurt him rather immensely. Gregor also does not protest when his sister Grete rearranges furniture in his room, simply because he does not want her to be getting upset even more. This again portrays Gregor as an individual with strong self-sacrificial anxieties.
Nevertheless, Gregor’s ultimate sacrificial act was his decision to die – hence, relieving his relatives of a burden of taking care of him: “He remembered his family with deep feelings of love. In this business, his own thought that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s”.
Apparently, despite the fact that, after having been turned into a bug Gregor never ceased being abused by the members of his family, he nevertheless continued to love them with a deep passion. Therefore, Gregor did not resist dying, as he felt that his relatives really did want him to disappear. Such Gregor’s final act, of course, cannot be referred to as anything but highly sacrificial.
Kafka, Franz “The Metamorphosis.” Vancouver Island University. 2009. 3 Oct. 2011 http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/kafka/metamorphosishtml.html
Kafka, Franz “A Hunger Artist.” Vancouver Island University. 2009. 3 Oct. 2011 http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/kafka/hungerartisthtml.html
Kafka, Franz “Jackals and Arabs.” Vancouver Island University. 2009. 3 Oct. 2011 http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/kafka/jackalsandarabshtml.html
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Essay
The Dream that Gregor has is the background upon which the story is told therefore bringing to attention the use of a dream in Franz Kafka’s story Metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is thought to occur in insects and it signifies their growth from one stage to the next which necessitates that the insect changes in physical form through the stages it goes through until it reaches maturity.
Metamorphosis in the context of Franz Kafka, illustrates the transformation of the Main character Gregor from a normal human being into a bug (Kafka 5). That is the point which Gregor’s misfortunes begin. But in the long run the transformation that is seen is that of the whole family and not just Gregor.
They are able to go out and work and even afford to go for a trip in the countryside and eventually they are able to sell the apartment they used together with Gregor, something that had not happened before. This can be seen as the major transformation and metamorphosis in the story. By using Gregor, Kafka symbolizes the whole family in general and the changes that take place therein upon Gregor’s metamorphosis.
Gregor is portrayed as a responsible young man who works to take care of his family when his father looses his grip on his business and therefore Gregor has to work to settle what his father owes his boss. This portrays him as one who is caring and concerned about the family’s well being. He does not like his job as a salesman but has got to do it for the family’s sake (Kafka9). The family has got savings that it can use but instead he is the one who takes full responsibility of their livelihood.
On the contrary, with what has befallen him, no one is really concerned about him except Grete who brings him food and cleans his room. There is a great contrast between the love that Gregor has for his family and that the family has for him after he has turned into a roach. It is also ironical that before the transformation his family is the most important thing to him but after the transformation the family does not seem to view him as important (Kafka 16).
It is evident in the story that it is Gregor who woks to take care of his family and therefore the rest of the family members did not. But in the event that the metamorphosis takes place, everyone is forced to work thus bringing out the metamorphosis in the family. In his stupor (Kafka 17), Gregor is relieved that at least his family has some money to use in regard to his helpless situation now that he was the sole provider.
His love for his parents and sister does not change even in his present state, though it is portrayed by the family’s actions that it is their love for him that has changed. For example by stuffing his room with furniture from the other rooms that have been taken up by lodgers, it is clear that his comfort does not matter to them. They even feed him with left over food and behave as if he does not exist any more in their lives. At the end of the day it is clear that they are the reason for his death.
Gregor’s metamorphosis is therefore the turning point in the family’s way of life. He turns out to be the one who is dependent on the other family members. Initially, the family depended on him. Upon retuning from the force, Gregor takes up the family responsibility of breadwinner.
It is also ironic that he takes up the role when his father is still there. His eventual state of being can signify the death of the parasitic nature of all the characters, starting with his family members and extending to the lodgers. Gregor gives up and succumbs and this changes the tune of events about the family’s way of life the story.
There is a prevailing conflict between father and son. Instead of father being in charge, he subjects his son of the role of working to pay for his debts. He does not even tell the family that he had not lost all his wealth. Instead he is on the receiving end and he takes up the position of son as his son takes the role f father. It comes to Gregor’s attention that his family still had some wealth when he was already a roach. It is therefore portrayed that Mr. Samsa was using his son for his own benefit.
Having been subjected to do the job of a salesman which of course he did not like, it is very unfair because this is seen as enslavement for the sake of his family yet it is unappreciated, more especially with view of his father’s character and attitude. He could have easily got out of the enslaving job had he known what was happening. His sacrifice for his family goes unappreciated at the end.
Tension between father and son, or rather with the rest of the family members is on the rise. When Gregor makes an appearance before his father, he throws an apple his direction and hurts him. In spite of his physical appearance, everyone, including his father knows s that the roach in there is Gregor (Kafka 34). That not withstanding, he hits him and injures him, his own son. This shows that Gregor is not considered part of the family anymore.
He is seen more of an outsider, an ugly roach that should not show up in the family gathering. Gregor is neglected. There is no effort whatsoever to help and revive Gregor. With the turn of events that Gregor is a human being no more; his family does not take any initiative to help him regain his normal human self. Instead, even his room is not tidied up and feeding him is quite a problem.
His family can be said to be the reason for his death. Instead of helping bring him back to normalcy, they show no interest at all. When he shows up when Grete is playing the violin, everyone seems disgusted of his presence and therefore slams the door before his very face and thereafter he takes his last breath and dies (Kafka 26).
The metamorphosis is an awakening call for the whole family. They come to realize of how much they rely on Gregor. They are sad at first but they have no choice but to go fourth and look for other ways of helping themselves. They come to see Gregor (Kafka 30) as a burden and eventually yearn to get rid of him. In the first place the family was not used to having Gregor round. He was away before the metamorphosis.
All they were interested in was his financial assistance, that is why they looked up to him, but when this help is not forthcoming and he is a roach, he is better kept away so that they live as if he were not there just like when he was away before the metamorphosis. The metamorphosis helps bring out the kind of relationships that existed within the family, more especially between Gregor and the other family members. The family members feel a bit relieve with the death of the roach.
In this kind of fiction, Kafka seeks to deal with family relations and roles of family members. Alienation that exists when life takes on different turn than it is expected not only in the family level but also in society in general. Kafka also seeks to bring to the reader’s attention how disability can change ones life.
His state being changed to that of a dependant through disability, Gregor’s problems multiplied therefore even costing him his life. His family made it even worse thus rendered him useless in their face (Kafka 47). The plight of the bedridden is seen to be problematic as shown though the protagonist Gregor as brought fourth by Kafka.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Whitefish, U. S.A. Publishing. 204. Pp. 1 – 48.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Essay
Franz Kafka, a world famous writer, was brought up in a family, where the dictatorship of the father prevented the family from having natural warm relationships. Maybe this factor allowed the author learn from the childhood that the relationships between people, together with the moral values, are often neglected, while the materialistic views have always been topical.
This is one of the key issues fairly depicted by Franz Kafka in his story “The Metamorphosis”, the bright example of modernism story highlighting realistic problems concerning traditional values perverted by the surrounding society.
Having described an outcast in his family, the writer shows alienation of a person with his or her traditional values and views in the cruel today’s society which is, day by day, losing its important human values, caring only of material values, oppressing distinctive and extraordinary individualities and spreading gregarious way of behavior.
Human values lost by the society
Within several thousand years each generation have been creating and passing down their assumptions, moral and values considered to be conventional and humane, which were held both by families and by societies.
Family values have been transferred into common values of community and society, but still their essence stayed and still stays the same as it was at the very beginning. However, the present society has quite perverse understanding of values, and today a reverse process can be traced – society influences family and dictates its own values to it.
Such loss of traditional humane values like empathy, love, respect, loyalty, and honesty has affected Franz Kafka who illustrated the metamorphosis or transformation of customary values on the example of the family of the Samsas. “The story presents the reader with the metaphor for a human existence in which spiritual reflection and interpersonal communication have been sacrificed for the sake of materialistic efficiency” (Die Verwandlung 1915: 1).
Indeed, showing the main character Gregor Samsa, who has found himself transformed “into a gigantic insect” physically (Kafka, 29), however, stayed human mentally, Kafka outlines his ability to preserve and keep humane values despite the fact of being an insect and having ugly appearance which is not accepted by his family, or society (in broader understanding).
His sincere genuine feelings towards his family contradict their cruelty and careless behavior towards him, a suffering insect. Hence the main character impersonates traditional values which are lost by his family and society, in general.
One of the most important values such as empathy is not inherent in our life any more, as Kafka shows. The family of Gregor-insect is not able to accept him as he is – with “his domelike brown belly” and “numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk” (Kafka, 32). Practically, the same happens in the society which is not willing to accept anything or anybody extraordinary and distinctive. In order to illustrate this issue more brightly, the writer uses a great paradox in his story.
The mentioned family feels no empathy for miserable Gregor, who really needs it, while the latter sympathizes his family, who do not require his sympathy at all. During his whole life Gregor Samsa has been working hard for the family, caring about them more than about himself, trying to give them the best he could, nevertheless he meet no giving back. Consequently, his idle care, love without answer and excessive empathy for his family turned him into helpless insect.
The only hope of the main character is loyalty of his sister Grete who has been always kind and caring towards Gregor, however, she also betrays him. Hence his hopes have been broken and loyalty has been lost. This illustration was used by Kafka to depict community’s assumptions neglecting loyalty when it becomes of no use.
It is shown that Grete was loyal to Gregor until he had “the firm intention of sending her to the Conservatory” (Kafka, 44) and had decent work where he could earn money to provide her with respectable life. However, she changed her attitude drastically as soon as Gregor suffered transformation and became helpless and indigent. Thus, it is ironic that insect continues to possess the feeling of loyalty till its last days while people of the surrounding society have forgotten about it.
Moreover, such significant value as honesty is also lacking since all people’s relationships are built on intrigues and pretence, what is highlighted in the story on the example of surface relationships between the main character and his family.
Neither family nor Gregor himself were honest in their lives – the family was pretending to love and care about Gregor all their life until metamorphosis changed him, and Gregor, in his turn, was pretending to be satisfied by everything including his way of living. Equally, honesty is ignored by communities and forgotten in the surrounding society in which success is achieved by deceitful means and self-interested measures, but not honesty.
Speaking about the greatest value of true love in Kafka’s story, it seems to be replaced by selfishness and egoistic love. Gregor’s parents seem to love him until he is a bread maker in his family, has respectable position in the society and socially acceptable appearance, thus it appears that love depends on outer factors.
Contrary, this value does not require any attractive appearance, but is of inside ground. The loss of love, especially inside the family, is a typical burning issue of modern society, thus Kafka depicts the main character of the story as lonely young man suffering from lack of any love.
All in all, on the sample of the family described in the story, Franz Kafka created an imagery of ill cruel society which is losing the most important traditional human moral values which have been passed down from generation to generation. That’s why the problems which take place in the family of Gregor Samsa concern not only family life, but each surrounding community and the whole society.
Material values versus moral values
Having analyzed the loss of customary human values referring to moral in Kafka’s story, it is necessary to contrast assumption of the society which has material values as a ground. In the story contrast of moral and material values is represented by insect having moral and family having material values. It is an irony that an insect possesses humane moral values, however, surrounding society, in the person of Samsa’s family, has lost them and has only material concerns.
Franz Kafka has chosen such a harsh transformation of imposing Gregor’s appearance into an ugly insect for the purpose of highlighting the role of appearance and social position as the most important material values in the society. To illustrate, family is merely shocked by the altered appearance of the son and brother, on his physical state; contrary, no member of the family pays attention at his emotional state and feelings, nobody notices that he stayed human inside.
After turning into insect Gregor is alienated by the family since his appearance became not like society used to see. This is his appearance and exterior that bothers the family to have decent life and be respected in the society. It is obvious that surrounding society, analogically to Gregor’s family, does not care of any moral and personal emotions; the only concern of the surrounding community or society is outward forms and material values.
Furthermore, the writer shows an urgent conflict between moral and material values by illustrating Gregor’s behavior as an instance. On the one hand, the main character feels empathy for his parents and sister who stayed without money and have to work in order to survive, and he feels even shame at that. His worrying has very complicated emotional ground and makes him depressed each day more and more. On the other hand, feeling empathy and shame Gregor’s thoughts are only of material conditions and welfare of the family.
He concerns about material values like his family does; thus there is an evident trace of surrounding society’s influence. However, at the end of the story the writer presents the resolution of this conflict – Gregor dies because of shame and lack of moral values, but not due to lack of some material things and conveniences. Thus Kafka stresses on a significant role of true moral values and their predominance rather than transitory material values, which are widely dictated by the surrounding society therefore.
Oppression of distinctive individuality
Everything that differs usually faces harsh reaction and deprecation, every extraordinary person revokes criticism and non-acceptance, unusual people are oppressed and even suppressed by the society. Alike, Gregor Samsa faces aversion and moral oppression by the surrounding people after his transformation into an ugly huge insect, what is out of the common and not acceptable by the surrounding society at all.
Describing how much the family is not willing to accept Gregor because of his appearance, the writer rigidly illustrates society’s not willingness to accept individuals who differ from others. Though Gregor had only his appearance changed, but mentally he stayed the same, nevertheless surrounding people alienate from him. This imagery shows how society avoids unusual and non-standard personalities isolating and exiling them, making them outcasts among people.
Moreover, depicting Gregor’s metamorphosis the writer shows his social alienation not only because of his altered appearance, but also because of his inner world which differs from the rest of society. Despite the fact that the surrounding human society lost the values, Gregor-insect managed to preserve them and stays an individual distinctive from the others.
In addition, Kafka draws an individual, who is completely helpless in the society. It is ironic that a person is lonely among persons; as a matter of fact, it is not an exception even in our present society. The person is alienated until he or she differs from the rest of society.
In this story, therefore the writer shows a try to accept the values which are dictated by the society. Numerous tries of Gregor-insect to get out of his bed are his tries to live in new body and image, what can be interpreted as a try to accept the values dictated by the society. However, at the end of the story Gregor dies, he was not able to live as an insect, thus Kafka means the failure to join the surrounding society and highlights that Gregor-insect stayed an individual person despite his appearance.
The fact that Gregor dies in the body of insect and no transformation happens shows us a clear position of the writer who does not accept the society as it is. It is better to die as an insect, however with values and being unusual, than to leave as a human having no values but possessing socially acceptable appearance and decent position in the surrounding society.
Gregarious behavior in the society
Despite the fact that any society has being formed by each separate individual, it is evident that the surrounding society dictates its principles and values. In “The Metamorphosis” Kafka shows how Gregor’s parents dictate him their own rules and values showing their gregarious behavior.
As Karl Marx noted on the story, “Once Gregor loses his cash value to his parents, well, then he ceases to be of interest to them” (Marx, 1). In addition, the parents completely comply with the rules of their flock i.e. surrounding society as their unwillingness to see socially non-acceptable appearance of insect shows.
In other words, they try to stay in their flock with their own assumptions and not to allow others to separate and differ from them. Such behavior can be explained by the fact that after separation from the flock, one differs from the rest and receives more freedom. Analogically, Gregor has been separated from his family because of his altered appearance, though he obtained subconsciously desirable freedom. However, his freedom does not satisfy the surrounding family and society in whole.
It is known that society keeps people in flock and wants them to behave like sheep of this flock for the reason that in such a way it is much easier to rule them. Once separate and behaving in other way, society isolates that person, what actually can be seen in the analyzed story.
The family makes Gregor to be outcast and isolates him in his room since he behaves in the manner contradicting to socially acceptable one. The main concern of the characters is to look like the others, like a flock, but not the inner world of the person whose feelings and emotional experience are of no interest.
A bright instant of the gregarious way of behavior is shown by Gregor’s sister Grete. Analyzing her behavior towards her brother within the course of the action in the story, it is clearly seen that she was greatly influenced by the flock, which is her family in this case. At the very beginning Grete was trying to be individual person with her own views and values, she helped her brother and loved him.
However, day by day she begins to avoid Gregor more and more, and consequently, alienates completely from him under the influence of her parents and society. Thus being an individual with values Grete gradually joins the flock and changes her way of behavior. She is not interested in her brother any more; she has no love, empathy and respect; she gradually turns into sheep following its flock and losing its personal values.
Making up a conclusion, it should be highlighted that the story which has been analyzed is a bright example of Kafka’s way to depict urgent social issues which amaze with their compelling arguments and up-to-dateness.
By means of detailed illustration of Gregor’s life and his family, the writer wants us to recognize our cruel society in the image of the family, to see the values which are being lost by the society and to realize possible consequences. Thus, Kafka has successfully outlined importance of moral values which gradually weakens under the pressure of the surrounding community or society which tries to impose gregarious way of life to all individualities.
“Die Verwandlung 1915.” Encyclopedia of German Literature. London: Routledge, 2000. Credo Reference. Web.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Crown, 2003.
Marx, Karl. “On Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis”. University of Liverpool. 11 June 2010. <http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/lectures/marxonkafkalecture.htm>
The Limited Third-Person Narrator in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Essay
The Metamorphosis is one of the most famous short stories by Franz Kafka. It revolves around transformation of protagonist Gregor Samsa from human into the vermin.
The short story is a typical example of magic realism that focuses on social problems and life of individual who is underestimated and alienated from society.
The subject of transformation plays an important role in the short story, it is the main means used by the author to express his ideas and describe the main character.
However, there is one more strong technique applied by Franz Kafka to touch the reader on different level (emotional and logical). The author uses omniscient or third-person narrator as a detached observer who tells the story to achieve another purpose, apart from entertaining one.
Kafka uses a limited third-person narrator in order to attract the reader’s attention to protagonist’s thought and feelings, to the importance of his inner reality, rather than other characters that play minor roles.
Thus, if Kafka chooses Gregor to narrate the story, it would have a different effect on the reader and would not allow the author achieve his main purpose – to entertain the reader and understand in full the protagonist’s inner reality.
In order to understand the role of the third person narrator in The Metamorphosis and explain why author used this technique, we should, first of all, analyze theme, main idea and background of the story.
It is no wonder that the work by Franz Kafka is one of the most analyzed works of the 20th century. It provides not only a unique content and extraordinary story, but a broad field of topics for discussion.
One of the major themes is the individual’s isolation and confrontation with the society. Before his transformation, Gregor was considered to be an independent member of the society, he had a job and supported his family.
However, after “one morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin” (Kafka 1), and after all events that happened to him, the reader comes to understanding that protagonist has never been “a full member of society”, he was just “a supply” used by society and his family to fulfill their needs.
He has never been appreciated and he never liked his life, as well as his job, but nevertheless, when he discovered that he can lose it he was very concerned, “as in fifteen years of service Gregor hadn’t been sick even ones” (Kafka 9) and had never missed a day.
The theme of alienation of the individual in the society is expressed metaphorically, Gregor’s transformation illustrates how society (which is embodied in the family) treats the one who can no longer be valuable for it and bring the benefit.
Why did the author choose a vermin for Gregor’s transformation? With this metaphor, Kafka wanted to show how an individual in the context of the society in which author lived and how insignificant and disadvantaged an individual could be as a part of social machine.
The society described in the short story provides the insight in the reality of the author’s own life. The story is autobiographical in some extend and presents the exploration of influences of the times in which the author, as well as the protagonist, lived.
As well as Gregor, Kafka lived with his parents and worked at the insurance office. He observed people’s lives and attitudes to other people and life as a whole.
He saw, as well as experienced by himself, the routine of every day duties and responsibilities that social structure and family laid upon people.
Kafka felt family tension that made him responsible for incomes, and his doubts about the justice of the system in which he lived made him turn to literature and explore these subjects in-depth.
The technique of the limited or omniscient third-person narrator became a great help in this task. Kafka’s narrative point of view focuses on protagonist Gregor Samsa, however, the narrator of the story is not a character that described in it, but a distance witness of events. According to Marina MacKay:
“Omniscient narration refers to a third-person narration in which the narrator can present not only the sort of external detail and information that might be accessible to characters in the story but also the feelings and thoughts of characters (which might well be unknown even to the character being discussed).
An omniscient narrator may refrain from explicit judgment or may, alternatively, provide a running commentary on the events being recounted” (202).
This technique is perfectly exemplified in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It permits the author not only focus on the subject matter and revolve around the themes of the story, but implement the entertainment function of the writing and provide the reader with an in-depth understanding of the protagonist’s feelings and thoughts.
In addition, this technique removes the focus from other characters and the reader can judge about them solely from their words and actions and puts the protagonist’s inner reality in the spotlight, “complicitously selective, the narrator withholds the full account of Gregor’s motivations, providing only the rationale as Gregor perceives it” (Bloom 68).
The limited narrator provides the reader with only one-side understanding of the events described. Samsa family is presented from a perspective of the protagonist, in other words, the reader sees each member of the family in the way Gregor does.
The narrator is limited with the knowledge that Gregor possess about his sister, father and mother, and does not allow a full access to their thoughts and feelings:
“Analysis of The Metamorphosis reveals that beneath the surface structure of the text, beneath its manifest appearance, we find on Gregor’s part – next to his need for self-expression – a desperate strategy of avoidance or circumvention of verbal confrontation, a fitting metaphor for this strategy is, of course, the form he has taken through his transformation, his shell of “Panzer” (Bloom 110).
The omniscient narrator’s point of view defines not only the plot of the story, but its context, setting and development of the problem.
The reader is not provided with the explanation of other characters’ actions, thus, he/she has a ground for imagination and free choice whether judge Samsa family for their behavior, or justify them as they are also placed in a difficult situation and deal with it in their own way.
Gregor’s mother loves him dearly, but she cannot stand the things that happened to her son, and Gregor’s sister does everything possible to provide her brother with comfort.
However, the technique of the omniscient narrator allows the author influences reader understands of the problem. Thus, this style of writing was chosen by author to create a particular atmosphere in which the reader is “forced” to feel a sort of sympathy towards protagonist of the story.
The author deals only with protagonist’s vision of the situation, the injustice and the way in which his family treats him are presented from Gregor’s perspective.
The readers get to know how hard his position is and how he struggles not to bother his family too much. Lack of understanding and compassion towards Gregor from his family is the result of the usage of the third-person narrator, “fusing the author’s objective omniscience (third person, past tense, etc.) with the character’s innermost mental view, this device offers “empathy” in its older sense: a process of total mental and spiritual identification” (Kafka and Neugroschel 13).
Thus, Kafka manipulates readers’ thoughts and feelings. However, at the end of the story the author changes his viewpoint, as Gregor dies and there is no longer the need to focus attention on his feelings and thoughts.
Kafka skips to the family’s life without Gregor, “Leant back comfortably on their seats, they discussed their prospects and found that on closer examination they were not at all bad” (Kafka 28), and it seemed to be better. It seems cynical of them to behave in that way, but it is the only time when the reader is allowed to see the world outside Gregor’s perspective.
What if the author used another technique and tells the story through the eyes of Gregor Samsa? It would influence greatly the narrative elements. First of all, it would change the plot and the story would end up with his death. In such case, the reader would never find out about events that happened with Samsa family afterwards.
Furthermore, the reader would not be aware of actions that family members performed outside Gregor’s room and it would not be possible to judge about feelings that they shared towards Gregor.
Omniscient narrator always provides deeper explanation of events regardless the fact that he focuses on one character. As opposed to this, first person narrator provides solely personal perspective on the problem.
Thus, the overall understanding of the themes and main idea of the story is quite different from the one described by the third person narrator.
The Metamorphosis is a deeply philosophical story that explores the theme of alienation of an individual from the society. Kafka managed to express his vision of the contemporary society using metaphoric description of a person treated as a vermin by the social machine.
He made use of the omniscient narrator to express his ideas and make the reader understand his writing in a particular way. Thus, the limited third-person narrator was used to explore the inner world of protagonist who faced injustice and misunderstanding of people who were his relatives represented modern society.
Bloom, Harold. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008.
Kafka, Franz, and Joachim Neugroschel. The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories: With Two New Stories. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Tribeca Books, 2003.
MacKay, Marina. The Cambridge Introduction to the Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Kafka’s Stories “Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist” Research Paper
One of the reasons why Franz Kafka is considered one of the 20th century’s most prominent writers is that the reading of his masterpieces leaves very few doubts as to the fact that, while pursuing a literary career, he remained thoroughly aware of what used to account for the major discursive issue of the time – a phenomena of people growing increasingly alienated from the surrounding socio-political reality.
As Kundera noted, “His (Kafka’s) enigmatic parables… demonstrate the alienation of capitalist society… (and) the loneliness and dread of man in a Godless cosmos” (88).
Therefore, it is fully explainable why the motif of alienation continually reemerges throughout most of his writings – Kafka strived to expose the actual reason why many of his contemporaries experienced the sensation of an emotional unease with the world, in general, and with their own sense of self-identity, in particular. In my paper, I will aim to explore the validity of this suggestion at length, in regards to Kafka’s stories Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist.
Ever since the time of their early childhood, the majority of people is being made to believe in the ‘sanctity of human life’, based upon the assumption that every individual’s existential uniqueness should be regarded as ‘thing in itself’, regardless of what happened to be his or her social status.
This idea, however, cannot be regarded as anything but utterly fallacious, in the conceptual sense of this word. After all, unlike what it is being the case with natural resources, ‘human resources’ are self-renewable, which means that the extent of just about every person’s actual worth is being reflective of his or her varying ability to be considered ‘resource’, in the first place. This is what Kafka’s story Metamorphosis is all about.
In it, after having woken up one morning, the character of Gregor Samsa realized himself being turned into a hideous bug. However, it was namely the social implications of such his metamorphosis that alarmed Gregor more than anything else did. This is because Gregor rightly concluded that, being a bug, he would hardly be able to take care of his professional duties of a travelling salesman.
Nevertheless, being a responsible person, Gregor tried to get off the bed and to go to work, “A slight indisposition, a dizzy spell, has prevented me from getting up. I’m still lying in bed right now. But I’m quite refreshed once again. I’m in the midst of getting out of bed. Just have patience for a short moment!” (par. 15).
Apparently, Gregor was well aware of the fact that, in order for just about anyone to be considered a society’s productive member, he or she must never cease being fully employed – those who cannot work are nothing but the society’s ‘burden’. In other words, Gregor’s physical metamorphosis only indirectly contributed to the rapidly emerged sensation of worthlessness, on his part.
The actual reason why, as the story progressed, this Gregor’s sensation was becoming increasingly acute, is that due to his physical impairment, produced by the metamorphosis, the capitalist society was no longer willing to recognize Gregor’s basic humanity – quite contrary to the fact that, despite his external appearance of a bug, Gregor never ceased being himself.
This is because, as it was implied earlier, the objective laws of nature do not correlate with the religion-based assumption of the human life’s ‘sanctity’. People are nothing but the physical carriers of genes (DNA), concerned with replicating themselves into posterity. As Dawkins pointed out, “We are all survival machines for the same kind of replicator – molecules called DNA” (24).
If a particular individual ends up being incapable of ensuring the survival of its genes (e.g. due to the loss of a job, which eventually causes starvation and death), the Darwinian laws will naturally deem such an individual ‘worthless’.
However, it is in people’s very nature to think of themselves as being so much more than just the lumps of an organic matter. Therefore, there nothing too surprising about the fact that, when faced with the workings of ‘godless’ universe, people often experience the sensation of a cognitive dissonance, which in turn causes them to lead socially withdrawn lifestyles.
This is exactly the reason why, as Kafka’s story progressed, Gregor was growing increasingly reluctant to come out of his room. Apparently, the true horror of his metamorphosis was not so much concerned with the alteration of his physical appearance, but rather with his transformation into a ‘social parasite’, who had to rely on others, as the actual mean of sustaining his physical existence.
Hence, the sensation of existential alienation, on Gregor’s part, reflected by his depression-driven desire to remain out of his family members’ sight, “He (Gregor) scurried under the couch, where, in spite of the fact that his back was a little cramped and he could no longer lift up his head, he felt very comfortable right away and was sorry only that his body was too wide to fit completely under the couch” (par. 37).
Being a self-conscious individual, Gregor tried his best to spare his mother, father and sister of seeing him, as he knew perfectly well that there was nothing aesthetically pleasing about his appearance of a bug.
Nevertheless, deep inside Gregor still maintained an irrational hope that, even though he could no longer contribute to the family’s financial well-being, his mother, father and sister were not overly burdened with his presence in the household. Such his hope, however, was about to be proven short-lived. After all, despite the fact that Gregor’s sister initially treated him with compassion, as time went on, she was becoming increasingly weary of having to take care of her insect-brother.
Eventually, she came to a point of refusing to believe that there was any humanness left in Gregor, “If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life among human beings is not possible with such a creature and would have gone away voluntarily. Then we would not have a brother, but we could go on living and honor his memory.
But this animal plagues us” (par. 75). Apparently, Gregor’s metamorphosis did not only affect his state of mind, while causing him to act in a socially alienated manner, but it also had a negative impact on the main character’s loved ones, as well. It appears that, while being exposed to the sight of ‘transformed’ Gregor, they were becoming endowed with suspicions, as to whether their continual association with the hideous bug was also making them less human.
In other words, the motif of alienation in Kafka’s story is not only being explored, in regards to the character of Gregor, but also in regards to the story’s other notable characters. And, as psychologists are being well aware of, if one’s alienation-fueled depression is being left untreated, it becomes only the matter of time, before the concerned individual would grow suicidal.
This is exactly what happened to Gregor. After having realized that his relatives were not welcoming his continual existence, Gregor did not even try to recover from the injury, sustained from his sister, and decided to pass away instead, “In this business, his own thought that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s… His head sank all the way down, and from his nostrils his last breath flowed weakly out” (par. 93).
Despite its unnaturalness, such Gregor’s decision was thoroughly justified. This is because the representatives of Homo Sapiens species are socially-integrated beings. What it means is that, once being deprived of an opportunity to lead socially interactive lifestyles, they necessarily succumb to depression, which in turn often causes them to decide to end the futility of their continual existence.
The motif of social alienation can be easily identified in Kafka’s story A Hunger Artist, as well. This story’s plot revolves around the so-called ‘hunger artist’ – an individual who earns money out of having turned its ability to fast for lengthy periods of time into a public spectacle.
Kafka’s hunger artist was able to attract intellectually marginalized spectators by the mean of providing them with an opportunity to experience a powerful emotional shock, while exposed to the sight of him sitting motionless in the cage and not touching any food for the duration of forty days. Nevertheless, even the hunger artist’s most committed fans could not quite understand what motivated him to continue putting up his show.
After all, the overwhelming majority of these people believed that the reason why the hunger artist was able to withhold from consuming any food for more than a month, is that he was inventive enough to have some food secretly delivered to him, while there were no spectators around his cage.
This is the reason why some of the hunger artist’s fans used to watch him 24/7, so that he would not be able to have even a single bite of secretly delivered food, “Sometimes there were nightly groups of watchers who carried out their vigil very laxly… clearly intending not to allow the hunger artist a small refreshment” (par. 2).
Yet, if anything, the hunger artist wanted to cheat his fans the least, “During the period of fasting the hunger artist would never, under any circumstances, have eaten the slightest thing, not even if compelled by force. The honor of his art forbade it” (par. 2).
Apparently, these fans were arrogant enough to never consider the possibility that the hunger artist’s public performances did not have anything to do with his presumed preoccupation with trying to make easy money, but rather with the artist’s ability to derive an aesthetic pleasure out of his ability to exercise a complete conscious control over its animalistic instincts.
In its turn, this can be explained by the fact that; whereas, the hunger artist was endowed with the so-called ‘Faustian’ mentality (which prompted him to seek self-actualization by the mean of subjecting the emanations of a surrounding reality to his will-power), psychologically speaking, his spectators were nothing but ‘Apollonians’ (individuals driven by their animalistic anxieties).
Hence, their inability to consider the possibility that there may be a purely ‘metaphysical’ purpose of one’s existence (Greenwood 53). What it means, is that while entertaining people, the hunger artist never ceased being emotionally and intellectually alienated from them.
The same can be said on the part of spectators, who never stopped suspecting him of being dishonest, “Most of them (spectators)… believed he was a publicity seeker or a total swindler, for whom, at all events, fasting was easy” (par. 3). This explains why, while fasting, the hunger artist could not care less about the impression he was making on the crowd – he was his own performer and the audience in one body.
The validity of this suggestion can be well illustrated in regards to the fact that the hunger artist always tried to resist being taken out of the cage, at the end of his 40-day fasting periods. Apparently, he could not quite relate to the spectators’ selfish interest in preventing him from dying, at the expense of denying him the chance to beat his own fasting-record, “Why stop right now after forty days?
He could have kept going for even longer, for an unlimited length of time. Why stop right now, when he was in his best form, indeed, not yet even in his best fasting form?” (par. 3). It appears that, despite how spectators used to perceive him, the hunger artist never considered himself an entertainer de facto.
This explains why, after having ended up being completely forgotten by his former fans, the hunger artist nevertheless continued fasting. This also reveals the actual significance of the dying hunger artist’s remark about the fact that there was not much of a rationale for people to admire his fasting skills, throughout the course of his career, as an entertainer, “You shouldn’t admire it… I couldn’t find a food which tasted good to me. If had found that, believe me, I would not have made a spectacle of myself” (par. 9).
Of course, there was not any truth in this remark – the hunger artist simply wanted to show that his former spectators were not worthy of his performances. Yet, it was only at the end of his life that the hunger artist was able to realize this simple truth. What prompted him to do so is the fact that, by walking straight to the cages with animals, without noticing the cage with the hunger artist inside, spectators were proving themselves not much different from the horned and tailed creatures of the nature that they came to see.
Therefore, it will only be logical, on our part, to suggest that the Kafka story’s ultimate conclusion once again stresses out the motif of alienation. While facing death, the hunger artist had enough courage to admit to himself that the reason why spectators used to admire him, is that they perceived him as something he has been trying hard not to be – a money-greedy human animal. The ironic sounding of the story’s final scene is self-evident.
I believe that the provided earlier line of argumentation, in regards to how the motif of existential/social alienation defines the philosophical significance of Kafka’s stories Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist, is being thoroughly consistent with the paper’s initial thesis-statement. Apparently, it was Kafka’s proficiency in exploring this particular motif in many of his literary works, which established objective preconditions for him to be considered a truly great writer.
Greenwood, Susan. Anthropology of Magic. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2009. Print.
Kafka, Franz. A Hunger Artist. Trans. Ian Johnston. Vancouver Island University, 2009. Web.
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Trans. Ian Johnston. Vancouver Island University, 2009. Web.
Kundera, Milan. “Kafka’s World.” The Wilson Quarterly 12.5 (1988): 88-99. Print.
Alienation Theme in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Research Paper
Society today can learn a lot from the story of Gregor Samsa, as the theme of alienation is deeply disclosed in this work. Kafka wrote the book at the time when society was just adjusting to new era of industrialization. People had to modify social relationships in order to conform to the new workplace order. A large number of these individuals failed to balance the two worlds and became disillusioned. It may thus be said that Gregor’s alienation was a dramatic result of the unsustainable socio-economic structure of the industrial revolution.
Karl Marx stated that one of the worst consequences of the economic system in his era was depersonalization of work. Capitalists treat individuals as cogs in a money-making machine. They are only worth something if they add value to the controller’s wealth. Furthermore, for the elite to maintain their positions, they must extract as much out of their workers as possible. This often manifests as exploitation through low wages, hazardous conditions and long working hours.
On the other hand, workers must keep at it because they need to earn a living to feed their families. Attempts to demand for more from their employers were often met with resistance and sometimes redundancy from work. The masses thus felt enslaved at their workplaces. Their bosses controlled when they could leave, enter, eat or even spend time with their families.
The industrial revolution thus dehumanized employees by only seeing them through a utilitarian lens. It is for this reason that when Gregor woke up as a bug, his number one concern was work. The bug worried about potential excuses he could use to explain away his tardiness. This only shows that others dehumanized him before he literally became non human. Samsa’s physical appearance was inconsequential to that feeling; he had always been lifeless even as a real man.
Bloom argues that jobs in Karl Marx’s world disillusioned employees because workers did what was alien to them (107). These individuals did not control wealth, so they could not even purchase what they created.
Marx argued that, aside from the owners, all individuals in the capitalist economic system lack mental and physical energy because they do not exercise their ingenuity. Gregor Samsa underwent all these experiences and was a man who epitomized the dilemma. The transformation into a bug was mostly a physical one because mentally he was already in an isolated and dehumanized state.
Humanity has the ability to dream and aim for greater things. It is likely people will become alienated if a system takes away these elements. Gregor wanted to do work on his own terms; he needed to have ambitions and reach out for them at his workplace. However, there were no opportunities for leadership there.
His family obligations prevented him from really doing what he wanted to do. These unmet desires are also what explain the source of alienation of Gregor in his family. The transformation into an insect was a form of revelation to the protagonist about his real position in society. He found out that he was only a small portion of the grand scheme of things just like an insect (DeNicola 54).
One should also note that Gregor’s alienation took the literal form of being isolated from his family. Not only was he unable to perform the breadwinning role that he took pride in, but now he became a burden to his family. The quality of Gregor’s family relationship had already deteriorated long before his physical transformation. According to his family, Samsa’s worth stemmed from his ability to contribute to their income. Therefore, when he was no longer able to do this due to the physical challenges, he lost value to his family.
One can argue that the value systems perpetuated in the capitalist world had already trickled down to the family-level. In the same way as Gregor’s employers, his family only valued his humanity because of his economic value. Initially, Gregor’s sister appeared to sympathize with her brother. She was the only one who fed him twice a day, or bothered to find out what he liked to eat.
However, the caregiver role eventually created resentment in his sister’s mind as she changed her behavior later. This indicates that Gregor’s alienation after the transformation was not a result of his appearance; it was his inability to contribute economically to the family. Mercy in this society is only predicated on one’s ability to provide.
Alienation in the story may also emanate from weak self identity and self perception. Gregor seemed to lack a factual understanding of his real self. He did not really understand who he was because of the economic relationships he had in the past. Therefore, he looked to others to define his identity. The rest of society only understood him through the things he could do or put together. However, when the transformation occurred, and he could no longer do these things, it shattered his identity.
The change damaged Gregor because it disrupted what he initially could do. Others’ reaction to it augmented this matter. His family was unwilling to accept the change or even give comfort following the alteration (Bloom 59). Alienation was a product of damaged identity in the eyes of the protagonist, as well as the stigmatization and rejection of others. These negative reactions all stemmed from the social structures and definitions of human identity.
Kohzadi, Azizmohammadi and Mahboubeh explain that Gregor’s feeling of disillusionment came from a delineation of his inner and his impersonal self (1603). It first started as a dream and eventually became reality. Kohzadi and others analyze Gregor’s isolation using a psychological lens.
They explain that Gregor constantly oscillated between worlds: his work and his true, inner self. It is for this reason that he prompts himself to get back to work at first as his rational mind was telling him. However, his inner mind also told him a totally different thing. In one instance he was mused: “How about going back to sleep and forgetting this foolishness … the problems of travelling” (Kafka 4).
Familial obligations put a strain on Samsa’s life. He always wanted to quit his job and give his employers a piece of his mind while at it. However, his parents had accumulated massive debt that could only be paid after four to five years of work at the firm. Gregor wanted to be independent and free to do as he was pleased.
However, his obligation to his family caused a sharp division between his freed self and the self that was impersonal and acceptable to others. Gregor’s state of affairs was oblivious to him because he was very firmly enmeshed in the socio-economic values of the day. Capitalism caused people to rationalize and plan their lives.
They did not care about feelings or unmet desires; they only focused on what had to be done. If the industrial revolution did not exist, it is likely that Samsa would have given his inner self greater priority than he did. Rational thoughts and plans were the order of the day in that society even though they could never bring satisfaction. Overall, the capitalist system made people’s inner being alien to them (Kohzadi et. al. 1604).
Alienation in the book is also a direct result of self disillusionment that had occurred in the protagonist’s mind. Because of the socio-economic system in this country, it became necessary to only focus on the necessities of life. Gregor concealed and distorted his personal needs in order to provide his family with a comfortable and secure life.
The protagonist was even immune to the fact that he was conflicted and needed to do what he really loved. This distortion of reality estranged him from his sister and parents, especially when they failed to appreciate the sacrifices he made for them.
On a superficial level, it appears that alienation in the book stemmed from a broken family relationships and distorted sense of identity. However, principles that defined family values and personal identity emanated from the socio-economic system of the era. Capitalism had reduced people’s worth to their economic contributions.
This prevented Gregor from realizing his inner ambition and developing his true identity. It also caused his family to think of him only as a source of material input in the family. These capitalist values alienated workers from their friends and family as well as their places of work.
Bloom, Harold. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. NY: Infobase Publishing, 2007. Print.
DeNicola, Paul. Literature as pure mediality: Kafka and the scene of writing. Saas-Fee: European Graduate School press. 2007. Print.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis: Norton Anthology of World Literature. NY: Norton and Company, 2003. Print.
Kohzadi, Hamedreza, Fatemeh Azizmohammadi and Mahboubeh Bouri. “ A study of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” Journal of Basic Applied Scientific Research 2.2(2012): 1600-1607. Print.
The Metamorphosis, a Novel by Franz Kafka Essay
The Metamorphosis by Kafka, like many of his works, is highly complex and characterised by intricate and oblique symbols and metaphors. The plot is based on Gregor, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning and finds that he has been transformed into a huge bug. He has a hard time relating to his family. However, he seems to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of an insect. Eventually, his alienation and injuries caused by his family result in his death, and the family seems to improve after his death.
Kafka’s substantial use of symbolism in this text is evident in the immediate context of the transformation that appears to be a reverse anthropomorphism, where a human character is personified as an insect (Kafka 34). This initial symbolism is important to the plot of the overall story because, essentially, if one considers the Gregor life before and after his transformation, he or she would realise that Gregor’s transformation had begun long before he turned into a beetle.
His metamorphosis is symbolic of the fact that his previous life was not that of a normal human, although he lived in a human body. He did not have friends and a social life outside his family. He seemed to have no other purpose in his life save for slaving for his family, just like a worker bee. When he transforms to a bug, his family treats him in a manner that makes him realise the true role he played in their lives. Thus, it is apparent that he did not just turn into a bug on that day.
He had been one for quite some time. The metamorphosis that alludes to the life circle of an insect can also be viewed symbolically about the change that takes place in the family. When he changes, family members seem to be on the path to ruin, but they gradually adapt. After his death, they improve, which is not unlike what happens to insects when they undergo the same.
Food is another overt symbol in the story. In a way, it is a reflection of the attitude of his family towards him. Grete, who appears to be closest to him, is the only one who bothers to feed him. Afterward, just as the rest of the family, she loses interest and the task of feeding him is left to the servant. To Gregor, and indeed universally, food is a key representation of familial love and concern.
Therefore, when his family members stop feeding him, Gregor’s rejection is complete since it symbolically means that they have no more interest in his being alive. Ironically, he is maimed by his father with an apple. His father could probably have benefited more from eating it.
Furthermore, food is supposed to represent sustenance, but the epitome of neglect is realised in Gregor’s case. The apple is used to hurt him, as demonstrated in the text. Also, his father attacks him with apples. It is indicated, “…another thrown immediately after that one drove into Gregor’s back really hard” (Kafka 51).
The uniform worn by Gregor’s father is symbolic because it represents both his dignity in the eyes of his son as well as the intermittent sentiments, which Gregor feels for him. The sentiments vary from pity to respect. The symbolism is appreciable since the father is seen from Gregor’s eyes. When he overhears his father discussing his failing business, Kafka gives the reader a window through which to see the older man as his son.
In this picture, he mostly embodies instability and bad luck that evokes Gregor and, by extension, the reader’s pity. However, when Gregor sees him in his new uniform, he is impressed, and the uniform appears to signify that his father has metamorphosed from an object of fear to a dignified man who deserves respect. He is standing up straight, dressed in a tight-fitting blue uniform with gold buttons, like the ones servants wear in a banking company (Kafka 50).
The music has a much-unexpected effect on Gregor. One may expect that, in the same way, he has become averse to foods he used to like and other human sensations, he would inevitably lose interest in it. Ironically, he appears to have gained a better appreciation for it after he transforms and ends up enjoying it more than his family and friends. As a symbol, the music brings out a dichotomy in Gregor’s human nature despite his animal form and the non-human elements of his family.
This is evidenced in the fact that only the animal in the house has the humanity to appreciate the redeeming power of art (Kafka 38). He uses it to try to mend fences between him and Grete, although it eventually serves to worsen the relationship between him and his family because he ends up scaring the lodgers in his eagerness to enjoy the music.
Ultimately, one can argue that his alienation from the human realm serves to help him to appreciate his humanity because before the metamorphosis, he was no more capable of enjoying music than his family (Kafka 52).
In conclusion, the instances and examples mentioned herein serve to support the assertion of Kafka’s rich application of various objects and occurrences to bring out deeper meaning and subtext. Otherwise, the overlying literal meaning would have little practical value to any reader judged purely on the figurative context.
Kafka, Franz. The metamorphosis. New York, NY: Start Publishing. 2013
“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka Essay (Critical Writing)
Literature has always been an integral part of human life. It appeared when a person tried to write down his/her personal feelings and emotions connected with a certain object and became one of the main remedies which helped to do it. That is why it is obvious that all important events in the life of people are reflected in literature. Additionally, literature can serve as the mirror, which helps to see peculiarities of the epoch in which certain work is created.
Being influenced by the beliefs topical for society at its current stage of development, authors have no other choice but to reflect them. However, at the same time, literature also touches some eternal themes which have always been topical for humanity, though they obtain some other meaning at the moment.
Such issues as relations between people, their attitude towards relatives, the influence of money on these relations, and the sense of human life, in general, have always been popular.
With this in mind, analysis of every literary work provides a great number of opportunities to understand human nature better and recognize their attitude towards these issues and compare this attitude with the modern one. Resting on these facts, analysis of the work The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka can provide a great number of opportunities for a better understanding of human nature.
First of all, it should be said that a good analysis of the work is impossible without a clear understanding of the character of its author and ideas peculiar to him. Franz Kafka is one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. He managed to create works atmosphere of which could shock a reader. Being raised under rather unusual conditions, he was able to embody his feelings in his works. They are imbued by absurd and fear of reality.
Additionally, the feeling of helplessness and insignificance can appear while reading his works. Kafka is known as one of the brightest representatives of existentialism. This term appeared to describe the beliefs of the group of philosophers and writers who considered that human existence was unique though absurd and senseless.
Every person has his/her own life in which he/she is free to live as he/she wants, though there is still a great fear of reality and recognition of absurdness of the life. That is why it becomes obvious that Kafka wanted to reflect these ideas in his works (Stephens, 2015), is a great admirer of this philosophic movement.
Under these conditions, The Metamorphosis can be taken as a good example of the embodiment of ideas of existentialism. The whole work is devoted to description of feelings and emotions of a person who suddenly discovered that he became an insect. There is no explanation of what the reasons for this transformation are and how it happened. One day, Gregor Samsa just makes this horrible discovery. Such an unusual setting, used by Kafka, just underlines indeterminism of human life.
The author wants to show that a person is forceless in the face of the world and reality, and everything can happen to him (Delahoyde, n.d). Samsa is not able to understand this change at once; however, gradually, he accustoms and is able to move and control his body. However, he is not able to live and survive. Being deprived of communication as his family refused him and, moreover, being injured, he dies alone, and his death remains almost unnoticed.
There is a great number of different themes touched by the author in this work. It is obvious that human existence and its senseless character are discussed here. However, Kafka also cogitates about such eternal issues as money, its influence on people, relations within the family, loyalty, and, additionally, complicated interaction between mind and body. That is why, being rather complicated work, The Metamorphosis suggests a great number of opportunities for its analysis.
As has already been stated, the issue of relations between mind and body is touched in work. Transformed into an insect, Gregor, however, saves the mind of a human being. Besides, at the beginning of the story, he could hardly speak as sounds which he produces are like “painful and uncontrollable squeaking” (Kafka, 1912, para. 7). Additionally, it is difficult for him to control his body “it turned out to be too hard to move; it went so slowly” (Kafka, 1912, para. 8).
Gregor still has his own mind though it is difficult for him to work under new conditions and rule a new body. However, in the course of the development of the story, it becomes easier for him to control his body. Gregor is able to climb and move his limbs. However, not only he influences it. The author also wants to show that the physical state of a person influences his mental abilities. Gregor’s behavior becomes more and more insect-like.
He prefers to remain in dark and tight spaces. Additionally, his preferences in food also change. The scene of the removal of furniture can serve as the culmination of this conflict. Being not able to control his instincts and determine what is better for him, Gregor leaves his room in a panic and receives a wound from his father. It is possible to say that the conflict between mind and body leads to the death of the main character.
Additionally, the issue of alienation can be seen here. It is obvious that the transform, which happened to Gregor, creates the barrier between him and the rest of the world. Being not able to communicate with his family or colleagues, the main character feels lonely and abandoned. However, this barrier can also be taken as the metaphor used by the author to show a reader a difference in the attitude towards people who differ from the majority of society (Batson, 2015).
Being a common traveling salesman, Samsa is taken as a member of it. He has colleagues and relatives who seem to like him and communicate with him. However, having become an insect, Gregor is ignored and deprived of any communication. Kafka shows readers the cruelty of society, which does not accept people who do not follow its rules or differ from its majority. Additionally, one more theme appears. The thing is that Gregor is also ignored by his family.
That is why the issue of relations between children and parents is also touched at work. Being the only person who earns money in the family, he is respected and loved. However, things change. The only person who now cares about Samsa is his sister Grete. Gregor is sure that “Grete would probably be the only one who would dare enter a room” (Kafka, 1912, para. 45).
The author also shows that even the love of parents and their attitude towards their child can be altered under the influence of some external factors. His parents do not try to understand or accept him, as it is still their child, though, in another body. However, being sure that society will reject this creature, they are not able to accept it too. Additionally, now, Gregor is dependent, and some money should be spent to feed him. The issue of money is also important here.
Being the only earner in the family, Gregor is appreciated and cared, though, now his transformation leads to his becoming one of the main reasons for the financial problems of the family because people, who rent rooms, refuse to live near Gregor. This fact makes the situation even worse as now family does not know how to survive, and even Grete, who is the only person who cares about Gregor, says to her father, “You’ve got to get rid of the idea that that’s Gregor.
We’ve only harmed ourselves by believing it for so long” (Kafka, 1912, para. 85). It becomes obvious that Grete refuses her brother. Though, it is possible to suggest that she lies. She is not sure that Gregor disappears. On the contrary, it is possible to assume that, being the only person who communicates with him, she knows that it is really Gregor, however, she prefers to forget about it as it is much easier to live in this way.
Having analyzed the story, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. Kafka manages to create an atmosphere of the absurdness of human life and the powerlessness of a person in the face of reality. Being deprived of communication, Gregor became a person who is not needed in society. That is why death was the only way out for him.
Batson, R. (2015). Kafka~Samsa. Reality Through Symbolism. The Kafka Project. Web.
Delahoyde, M. Kafka, The Metamorphosis. Web.
Kafka, F. (1912). The Metamorphosis. Web.
Stephens, J. (2015). Franz Kafka’s personal life reflected in the Metamorphosis. The Kafka Project. Web.