The Rapid Metamorphosis of the Mexican Government
The Mexican Revolution was a period in Mexico’s history where the entire political, economic, and social fabric of Mexico was thrust into rapid transformation. During this period, the principles that founded Mexico—the role of Amerindians in society, the power of the Church, isolation versus foreign imperialism, the role of heavy bureaucracies and hierarchies—were called into question by the Mexican people. Ideologies such as nationalism, neoliberalism, socialism, and anarchism seeped into the collective consciousness of the Mexican people, causing the push for political reform. Radicals and reformists like Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, and Álvaro Obregón rose from the ashes of Porfirio Diaz’s and Victoriano Huerta’s rule.
Mexico’s volatile history of colonization, foreign occupation, imperialist domination, and revolution still affect its present. However, the three most influential developments that resulted from the revolution itself were the inclusion of Article 3 in the Constitution of 1917, the connection of Mexico to the United States, and formation of the National Revolutionary Party in 1929.
The inclusion of Article 3 in the Constitution of 1917 was one of the most influential developments that resulted from the Mexican revolution. The Constitution of 1917, specifically Article 3, mandated that education must be compulsory. Pre-school, primary, and secondary education were included in the compulsory education. In order to satisfy the Constitution of 1917 the Mexican government had to dedicate the single largest part of its budget to building schools for rural municipalities and hiring teachers.
The inclusion of this article allowed for José Vasconcelos, the head of the Department of Education from 1920-1924, to implement Communist Russian policies and practices in the Mexican education system. Within this period, 1000 rural schools were opened. Before 1900, less than 15% of the Mexican population was literate. As a result of Article 3, by 1940 50% of the population was literate.
The rise in literacy in Mexico, and in any country for that matter, is an important development because literacy is a good measure of education for a country. As the population becomes more literate, more people will pursue higher education and advanced careers, allowing Mexico to have a larger pool of professionals to pull from. The advancement of an educated populace in Mexico meant a larger democratic base and a more robust economic system.
The second most influential development that resulted from the Mexican Revolution was the rekindling of a relationship between Mexico and the United States. Since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and skirmishes along the Mexico-U.S. border to the occupation of Veracruz, the relationship between Mexico and the United States has always been strained. Franklin Roosevelt implemented his Good Neighbor policy in which he pledged not to intervene in the affairs of Latin American countries.
Out of this newfound relationship came NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The North American Free Trade Agreement, though there are contentions over the imperialist nature of the agreement, brought Mexico into the global trade market by linking it to the two largest powers in the Western Hemisphere, the United Sates and Canada. Many scholars have linked NAFTA with increasing the flow of illicit drugs from Mexico to the United States. Nonetheless, NAFT encouraged free and open economic between these two bordering states.
Finally, the formation of the National Revolutionary Party (PNR) in 1929 by Plutarco Elías Calles was one of the most influential developments that resulted from the Mexican Revolution. Prior to the formation of PNR, political parties did not have much political influence. They functioned more like clubs and interests groups than political parties. Take the Anti-Reelectionist Party formed by Francisco I. Madero as an example. This party was formed in strict opposition to Porfirio’s Díaz’s policies and his three decades of political control that, for some, constituted an authoritarian dictatorship. In contrast, PRN (now renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party) was able to secure Mexico’s economic position after the Great Depression and the collapse of the banks by modeling this party after the Communist Party in Russia and the National Fascist Party in Italy. The formation of PRN allowed Mexico to execute a higher level of democratic freedom promised to the Mexican people in the Constitution of 1857 and 1917.
From the American perspective, Mexico’s history was more rich and complex than one can imagine and this was only a cursory course. Classes like this should be followed up the following semester with an investigation of the countries modern history. It was thought provoking to trace the beginning of Mexico from its colonization to how Mexico is faring today with issues like domestic security, economic stability, and social justice issues like reproductive rights and rural education. When studying the events in Mexico’s history, the question arises: what causes one nation to succeed while others fail? Adam Smith relates this gap to causes such as the division of labor and the early development of free markets. Jared Diamond chalks it up to guns, germs, and steel. After taking this class, it is obvious that there are too many variables that contribute to a nation’s success or failure.
The Meaning of the Metamorphosis from the Existentialist’s Point of View
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines existentialism, in part, as “a philosophical theory that…emphasizes the existence of the individual person… determining their own development through acts of the will.” Existentialist work stresses the importance of the individual often denying the “existence of objective values.” Existentialism is focused on choice, as well as the idea that people must exist before they can have any values. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka uses Gregor Samsa’s struggle against existentialist principles, as well as the consequences surrounding Gregor’s actions against the existentialist principles to exhibit a chiefly existentialist theme.
Jean-Paul Sartre was the pioneering philosopher in the existentialist movement who claimed that “existence preceded essence” and rejected the ideas of older philosophers that humans had a set nature. Human essence refers to “…ideas that [are] eternal and unchanging,” such as those a person could obtain from following a religion. Aristotle believed the essence of humanity was reason, and that reason was what separated humans from animals (Fiero, 70). Sartre argued that humans have no predisposition to any sort of being, and existence in a purely physical manner comes first in human priorities. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that humans have a need-based set of priorities, this theory is commonly referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy described physiological needs, such as those for food, water and basic bodily functions as being the most important. The theory also states that needs further up in the hierarchy, for example friendships and familial relationships, cannot be met until the levels in the hierarchy below these needs are met (Noltemeyer, 1). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is existentialist in nature because humans must meet physical needs in order to exist, before being able to have any sort of philosophy, like a religion, or essence. In The Metamorphosis, Gregor violates Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs after his transformation, therefore violating existentialist principles.
Gregor Samsa’s attitude about going to work after his transformation is an example of existentialism because of the consequences that result when he fights the “existence before essence” concept of existentialism. When confronted with his transformation, Gregor immediately attempts to go back to work, despite being transformed into a “monstrous vermin” (Kafka, 1). Instead of trusting his nature and ensuring his needs as a living being, which are now different from the needs Gregor had before his transformation, are met; Gregor attempts to go to work out of obligation to his family member’s needs. Gregor is violating Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, and attempting to fulfill the love and belonging needs that are satisfied when he supports his family before filling his own physiological needs. These actions go directly against the nature of existentialism, and therefore cause Gregor physical harm and emotional distress (18, 19). Due to the consequences of violating the nature of existentialism, The Metamorphosis can be classified as existentialist because when Gregor’s actions violate the principles of existentialism, the consequences are negative.
Existentialism focuses on choice as one of the defining aspects of human existence. The “freedom to choose” was at the heart of human existence and was what made people different from other animals. Humans alone are responsible for their choices, as well as the consequences surrounding these choices. Sartre believed that almost all choices have more than one option and always have more than one outcome to a situation. He also claimed that man’s choices always led to negativity because hindsight gives humans the ability to see the possible outcomes from choices they did not make. Sartre believed that to blame an outside source for a negative consequence from one’s actions, or to claim the choice made was the only choice available is to act in “bad faith” and is “a form of self-deception and inauthenticity” Sartre also claimed that humans natural anxiety about these choices and that every choice made was reflection of humanity as a whole (Fiero, 70). The existentialist principles of choice and “existence before essence” coincide with each other in that the choices made by humans begin to give way to the essences that humans do not have intrinsically. These choices not only give way to the essence of a person, but define what essence they possess. In The Metamorposis, Gregor attempts to violate the coupling of these existentialist principals and have an “essence” before choosing to act one way or another.
Gregor’s situation before his transformation in The Metamorphosis is an example of existentialism because Gregor’s choice to support his family instead of doing what he wishes results in negative consequences he can only see after his choice has been made. Gregor’s family does not work and relies solely on him to pay the family debt (Kafka, 4). The other members of Gregor’s family have the potential to work, yet none do and Gregor elects to work to support his family members (Cite). Only obligation to fulfill his family’s needs, and therefore his interpersonal needs, compel Gregor to work. Although the argument may be made that Gregor supports his family because he has to, Gregor actually supports his family because he chooses to. This choice leads to Gregor’s pain. Not only is Gregor in physical pain from the abuse done unto him by his family, his physiology is in pain as well. Gregor stops leaving his room, does not eat and spends his days in agony (43). The Metamorphosis is existentialist because Gregor’s choice to support to his family ultimately leads to negative consequences, and while a traditional manner of thinking would call Gregor’s support of his family something he must do, it is actually something he chooses to do, therefore suffering from the outcome. When Gregor goes against another existentialist principle, the consequences are negative.
Existentialism places the most power in the individual, and The Metamorphosis is an existentialist work because it exhibits how lack of individualism leads to demise. Gregor loses his individuality after his transformation. He is no longer able to do the things he loves to do, or support his family. At the beginning of the story, Gregor has framed a picture of an advertisement with a pretty girl in a home-made frame, something he enjoys doing (1). Gregor does not get to do much, but his wood cutting hobby is something he enjoys. Gregor’s sole purpose in life is to make enough money to support his family and pay off their debt (4). This compulsion makes Gregor an individual and gives his life meaning. When Gregor is unable to work or do any of the activities he could do before his transformation, he loses what makes him a person. Upon discovering Gregor’s dead body, the Samsa’s maid exclaims “Come and have a look! It’s croaked; it’s lying there dead as a doornail” (52). She does not refer to Gregor as “he,” but rather as “it,” fully robbing Gregor of his humanity. Gregor dies due to the loss of his individuality. He is no longer a human being in a psychological sense, as well as physical. Once his former passions and purpose are lost, Gregor is not an individual, and therefore dies after being reduced to something less than human. The events that lead to Gregor’s loss of individuality and subsequent death are existentialist in nature. Gregor dies when he loses the chief idea of existentialism, individuality.
Jo Bogaerts once wrote “French existentialism was among the first intellectual movements to bring Kafka critical renown as well as widespread popularity…” (Bogarets, 69). It can be concluded that Kafka’s popularity with French existentialists is due to his work, The Metamorphosis, an example of existentialist literature. Jean-Paul Sartre credited Kafka as wanting to “describe the human condition” (70). Kafka achieves an existentialist this existentialist description of the human condition in The Metamorphosis. By showing how the rejection of existentialist principles, including the focus on the individual, choices, and the idea that one must exists before one can have true values, lead to negative consequences, Kafka champions an existentialist cause.
Fish Morphometrics, Its Estimation and How It Uses
Fish morphometrics has been within the hot-spot over ichthyological studies because many decades, but the preliminary steps date back in conformity with the day concerning Galileo Galilei (Froese 2006). Yet, the scientific basis for morphometry in fishes, or particularly the mathematical access as poise relates after length, was once put in with the aid of Fulton, in 1904, anybody because the first era delivered fisheries erudition in ‘allometry’ (Froese 2006). The significance about morphological characters into icthyotaxonomy needs no specify. The normal for fat eyelids, nature of operculum, its improvement, position of nostrils, development over maxillae, nearness over pores around the mouth territory or its numbers, sort of mouth, the curving of parallel line, colors, groups on the sidelong viewpoint and so forth., are in similarity with be examined deliberately into considerable amount of examples securing distinctive length gatherings.
Once in a while a morphological identity ascribed by utilizing a taxonomist as like substantial some for an animal groups at a given length, may appear after lie firm generally advantageous yet abhorrent length gatherings (Mann, 1974). Consequently, taxonomists bear to taking in the morphological characters of whole length bunches covering substantial number with respect to example. Icthyotaxonomists ought not depend more an incentive to colouration. Morphological characters have been frequently old among fishery science as per measure discreteness or connections among various ordered classifications. There are very much recorded morphometric examines who give confirmation for stock discreteness (Shepherd, 1991).
Morphometric estimation is one of the known and financially savvy strategies distinguishing morphological contrasts. This is broadly used to decide contrasts between populace or intraspecific varieties (Cheng et al 2005; Buj et al 2008; Torres et al 2010). It is, subsequently, fundamental to watch the example of variety inside a populace (Beheregaray and Levy 2000) when contemplating morphological variety inside species. Amid the improvement of fish, fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is related with annoyance and stresses (Allenbach et al 2009). Ecological and hereditary pressure has molded the morphological contrasts with respect to raised levels of fluctuating asymmetry as bothered the common improvement amid ontogeny (Palmer and Strobeck 2003; Markow 1995). Subsequently, fluctuating asymmetry shows unpretentious contrasts between the left and right horizontal sides as an example of two-sided varieties in an example of fishes as an adjustment to ecological pressure (Swaddle 2003).
Nowadays, the close oftentimes ancient relationships, that have been established because the majority of fishes (Binohlan & Pauly 2000, Froese & Pauly 2011), are those concerning weight after body spread (in the majority of cases, aggregation body length (TL)), then different types of length (i.e., standard (SL) and fork (FL) length) in conformity with TL. Weight (W) – length (TL) relationships are concerning limit type, i.e., W= a TLb. In it equation, a is the coefficient about body form (Lleonart et al. 2000, Froese 2006), and such gets values round 0.1 for fishes who are little sized then with a rounded body shape, 0.01 for streamlined-shaped fishes or 0.001 because of eel-like wrought fishes. In contrast, b is the coefficient balancing the dosage on the equation then its values execute be smaller, larger or equalize according to 3 (Lleonart et al. 2000, Froese 2006). In the first two cases (i.e., b3) fish growth is allometric (i.e., now b3 the fish grows quicker among weight than within length), whereas now b=3 growth is isometric.
Gregor’s Transitions Described in Metamorphosis
Metamorphosis begins with Gregor, a travelling salesman, waking up one morning before he has to report to his miserable job, as a beetle. Throughout the short story, Franz Kafka, the author, showcases the many changes that occur from the day Gregor wakes up as a bug, to his unfortunate deterioration, and eventually his somber death. His family, which includes Grete, his sister, and his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, all go through immense transformations, not only individually, but with their relationships with one another. The title of Metamorphosis is the titular word for the changes which occur in not only the most obvious of them all, Gregor, but of all the underlying layers of the rest of the family.
“One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin,” (1999). With this genuinely powerful opening line, Kafka lays out the entire premise of the short story. Gregor wakes up turned into a bug. There is no backstory, nor anything about Gregor and his life in real time before this transformation occurs. Other than what is told throughout the remainder of the story, we know nothing of how Gregor, or his family, lived.
The most obvious connection with the title of Metamorphosis is Gregor’s change from human to bug. Of course, turning into a bug is something that is implausible to ever happen in real life. This results in him having human like thoughts in an insect body. “True, the others no longer understood what he said even though it sounded clear enough to him, clearer than before, perhaps because his ears had gotten used to it,” (2005). Upon turning into a bug, he is now no longer able to communicate with anyone. What sounds fine to him, in his head, cannot be understood by his family, or any human for that matter. He also, has trouble getting out of bed and getting to the door, once his supervisor comes to check up on why he missed his train for work. “…‘I absolutely must be out of bed completely before the clock strikes seven-fifteen,’” (2002) Gregor says. He doesn’t even think about his current state as a bug, but is more worried about his absence from work, and trying to catch the next train. That would be entirely impossible in his new body, and anyway in normal circumstances, if someone was to turn into a bug, their reaction should be a lot different than what Gregor’s was. He has trouble adjusting to his new physical state, with his little legs and his broad appearance. It is never noted exactly just how big Gregor is, because normally bug’s are quite small. But, having turned from human into bug, it makes sense for him to be large and in proportion to his previous state. This can also be proved when he gets stuck between a doorway and his father shoves him in.
In addition to the physical change that Gregor goes through, he goes through a mental change as well. Gregor’s physical metamorphosis is a metaphor for his mental metamorphosis of a man who is alienated from his family and society. There is the change of Gregor during the time he started the job as the travelling salesman and became enslaved to his family, about 5 years prior to his metamorphosis, to the glimpse we see of his time in the army as a young man. “On the wall directly opposite hung a photograph of Gregor from his army days in a lieutenant’s uniform, his hand on his sword, a carefree smile on his lips, demanding respect for his bearing and rank,” (2007). This one line shows how Gregor was at one time free from his dismal existence, brandishing a carefree smile, instead. Also he was not just a colonel, but a lieutenant, and demanded respect for the rank he held. The choice of words Kafka uses are very deliberately picked, I believe, because they do a fantastic job of showing a complete juxtaposition of Gregor as we now know him. He no longer demands respect, instead he is indebted to his parents and sister, by providing monetarily. He no longer wears a carefree smile, instead miserable and enslaved by his job that he has not had a day off of in five years. Everything Gregor once was, from this one description of a picture hanging on his wall, is everything Gregor no longer is. He supported his family because his parents were old and his sister young, but really when given the need, they were perfectly able of supporting themselves, and even happier that way. “… their jobs were all exceedingly advantageous and also promising” (2030). Did the family really need Gregor to squander his life away for them, or were they just using him as their crutch, to not have to work. But, when he turns into a vermin, it’s easy for them to justify excluding him from the inner-circle, and eventually rationalizing his unimportance to them.
Grete, Gregor’s young sister, is the only one out his family who can bear to even be in the mere vicinity of Gregor, in his new state. She starts off as more sympathetic, and becomes the only one who feeds him, at the very least. “For there stood a bowl full of fresh milk with tiny slices of white bread floating in it,” (2010). This shows that Grete cared enough to put out Gregor’s favorite food, leaving it there for him once he wakes up. Even something so small, is significant when the mother cannot stand the sight of him, resulting in her fainting, and the father is extremely violent towards him. She even went so far as to bring, “… him a whole array of food, all spread out on an old newspaper,” (2011). If someone did not care about a person at all, they would never do this for them, especially if it was so easy to do the opposite. However, as the story goes on she becomes increasingly repelled by Gregor. She is the one who initiates the idea that enough is enough, and that the monstrosity that his holed up in his room, is no longer Gregor. “‘You simply have to try and get rid of the idea that it is Gregor. Our real misfortune is that we believed it for such a long time. Just how can that possibly be Gregor…?” (2027). Referring to Gregor, as “it” shows that she does not view Gregor as human anymore, but as something disposable and ruining their lives. “We must try to get rid of it. We have done everything humanly possible to look after it…” (2026). She no longer has any sympathies or grief over letting Gregor die. This change that she goes through, is not really explained from her point of view, and we do not get much of a glimpse of her mindset. It seems more for her parents, after seeing her mother and fathers distress. “… the door was hastily slammed, bolted, and locked,” (2027-2028). The multiple descriptions Kafka uses to describe the last and final moment that will conclusively lead to Gregor’s death, shows a finality of the family’s irreversible decision. For the family, there is no going back from this. The door is locked, and they do not care about what happens to “it” in the room.
The next morning, Gregor, “held on long enough to glimpse the start of the overall brightening outside… then his head involuntarily sank… and his final breath came feebly from his nostrils,” (2028). Once again, Kafka writes such a powerful end to Gregor’s death, with his description of his final moments. The fact that Gregor held on to catch a peek of the sunshine is such a somber thought for someone who is dying. Sunshine corresponds to happiness and joy, while death is the complete opposite. He sees his last glimpse of the outside world, a ray of light, and then sinks into death, and darkness.
The Significance of Setting in Naguib Mahfouz’s “Midaq Alley” and Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”
Naguib Mahfouz and Franz Kafka both use setting as an important literary feature in their respective works, Midaq Alley and The Metamorphosis. Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley takes place in the back streets of Cairo, Egypt during the Second World War, specifically in Midaq Alley. The alley is home to various inhabitants, including the heroine, Hamida, who desperately seeks to escape the monotony of life in the alley. The Metamorphosis, on the other hand, depicts a middle-class family, the Samsas, living in an apartment in Germany near the start of the First World War. The protagonist, Gregor, transforms into an insect at the start of the novella and is left confined to his bedroom. Gregor’s bedroom serves as a reflection of his dehumanizing transformation, and it becomes his coffin when he perishes at the end of the novella. In their works, both Mahfouz and Kafka present protagonists imprisoned by their settings, who, in their attempts to escape, exhibit the true cost of captivity.
Gregor’s bedroom, the major setting of The Metamorphosis, physically imprisons Gregor from the start of the novella. His transformation into an insect creates obstacles for him; for example, Kafka spends much of the exposition of the novella describing Gregor’s attempts to get off of the bed. Gregor’s lack of freedom in his apartment is used as a reflection of his debilitating transformation. Gregor leaves the bedroom to try to explain to the Deputy Director why he was not at work that morning, and, in doing so, feels immediately free: “This had hardly happened, when for the first time that morning he felt a sense of physical well-being. […] Suddenly, he believed that the ultimate relief of all his suffering was at hand” (Kafka, 620). However, Gregor’s father quickly forces him back into his bedroom, where he stays for most of the novella. Within the apartment, the bedroom becomes Gregor’s place of exile. He is never allowed out, and he spends most of his time staring out of the window, if “only in some kind of nostalgia for the feeling of freedom he had previously found in looking out the window” (626). Furthermore, the bedroom not only confines Gregor, but also taints his view of the world around him: “If he had not known very well that he lived in the quiet, but distinctly urban Charlotte Street, he could have believed that he looked out of his window into a desert in which the gray sky and the gray earth merged indistinguishably” (626).
While the bedroom physically imprisons Gregor in The Metamorphosis, Midaq Alley culturally imprisons Hamida in Midaq Alley. Midaq Alley is rich in Eastern culture but at odds with the more progressive aspects of an Egypt emerging into Western society. Hamida has a desire to leave the alley, and her strong ambition lies in her dreams of wealth and success. While she grew up and resides in Midaq Alley, she takes daily walks down Mousky Street both to test the limits of her confinement and to admire those who are freer than she. Hamida dreams of life outside the alley, and yet her vague ambitions are “limited to her familiar world, which [ends] at Queen Farida Square. She [knows] nothing of life beyond it” (40). She envies the Egyptian girls that she meets on her daily walks, who, “taking advantage of wartime employment opportunities, [ignore] custom and tradition and now [work] in public places just like the Jewish women” (40). Hamida’s imprisonment is also presented in her reluctant engagement to Abbas, the young barber who prefers Midaq Alley “to any place in the whole world” (87). As an emblem of the alley’s culture and morals, Abbas envisions a future in which he and Hamida live together in the alley as man and wife, a vision not shared by Hamida. Abbas discusses his dreams with her, saying, “‘We will be the happiest two in the alley,’” to which Hamida replies with a scowl, “‘Midaq Alley!’” (87). Hamida believes in a future outside of the alley and is “aware of the great gulf between this humble young man and her own greedy ambitions” (82). Despite her apathy towards Abbas, she agrees to marry him, thinking that she cannot ask for anyone better in the alley. Hamida puts her dreams on hold for her marriage to Abbas, and thus she incarcerates herself even further in the prison of Midaq Alley.
Gregor and Hamida both make attempts to escape in The Metamorphosis and Midaq Alley, although to varying degrees of success. Gregor leaves his bedroom twice after his initial foray into the living room at the start of the novella, and both departures contribute to his death. Gregor first emerges when trying to prevent the removal of the furniture from his room, seeing it as a blow to his humanity: “Did he really want to let them transform the warm room… into a cave?” (628). His beleaguered sister locks him out of the room, and his father comes home and embeds an apple deep in Gregor’s back, forcing him back into his bedroom. Gregor’s final attempt at escape comes near the end of the novella. When Gregor’s family rents a room to three lodgers, Gregor’s bedroom becomes a receptacle for useless trash, a reflection of the Samsa family’s gradual abandonment of Gregor and his lowered status in the apartment. After long periods of starvation, Gregor is drawn out of the room by his sister’s violin playing, which guides him “to the sustenance he had unknowingly desired” — a signal that he can no longer endure the starvation in his bedroom (636). While listening to the music of the violin, he begins to dream of a time when his sister “would not be forced, but would rather stay with him willingly” in his bedroom, expressing his hope that his bedroom can once again become a place of tranquility (636). However, these dreams are crushed when the lodgers discover him on the dining room floor and exit in fury. In the face of his family’s anguish, Gregor returns to his bedroom, and, after overhearing a conversation in which his sister doubts his status as a human being, he perishes.
In Midaq Alley, Hamida escapes the alley through the allure of the pimp, Ibrahim Faraj. Faraj represents, to Hamida, everything which the alley is not able to provide; he is “her life, her hope, her strength, and her happiness” (200). Through him, she is able to fully realize how Midaq Alley has imprisoned her: “Was there any other way of slipping the noose of the past except with this man who had lighted such a fire within her?” (200-201). In the realization of her dreams, she not only escapes the physical setting of Midaq Alley (by beginning her life in Faraj’s apartment), but she sheds her cultural shackles as well. Faraj bestows Hamida with everything she could want, and she becomes extravagantly beautiful and wealthy. This dramatic transformation, however, causes her spiritual self to die, as symbolized by her name change to “Titi” upon her arrival at Faraj’s apartment. Faraj explains, “‘That’s your new name. Keep it and forget Hamida, for she has ceased to exist!’” (216). While Faraj’s apartment provides Hamida with everything she previously wished for, Faraj’s mistreatment of her maims her soul. Hamida never returns to the alley, both physically and spiritually; she becomes a completely changed person, with little hope of returning to the values and ideals set upon her by the alley that she had so despised for most of her life.
The settings of both The Metamorphosis and Midaq Alley are the sources of imprisonment for the protagonists, Gregor and Hamida. Gregor’s bedroom physically sets him apart from his cherished family and taints his view of the rest of the world, while Midaq Alley imposes traditional Eastern values on a young, ambitious Hamida. Gregor’s bedroom starts as his sanctuary but becomes his prison; and although he attempts to leave, he realizes in the end that, just as he used to fit a proper place in society, so does he fit a proper place in the apartment. His final return to the bedroom represents an ultimate understanding of his imprisonment and of the futility of his attempts to escape. In a similar fashion, Hamida leaves the restrictions of Midaq Alley and, in doing so, becomes a completely different person — unrecognizable to herself afterwards. However, unlike Gregor, she does not return to her prison in a moment of final comprehension. In the final chapter of Midaq Alley, Mahfouz reveals that Hamida has moved far away from the alley in an effort to rebuild her life. She is successful in leaving Midaq Alley, but Mahfouz clearly presents the cost of leaving, suggesting that the old Hamida is metaphorically dead. Through the authors’ use of setting, Gregor’s bedroom and Midaq Alley impose restraints upon the dreams of Gregor and Hamida. Those restraints, by their very nature, express the dominance of the setting over the characters’ lives and enforce the fatal penalty of attempts at escape.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Trans. Alexis Walker. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Mahfouz, Naguib. Midaq Alley. Trans. Trevor Le Gassick. New York: Anchor Books, 1992.
The Other Side of Happiness
One thing that Shusaku Endo’s Silence and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis have in common is the aftertaste they leave in the reader’s intellectual palate. Unlike most authors, Endo and Kafka refuse to oblige the readers with a satisfying happy ending, opting instead for a less predictable but more dramatic finale. Despite the innocence of the central characters, both stories reach their zenith in the downfall of those characters: Rodrigues ends up a prisoner and an apostate, while Gregor dies alone in his room without ever regaining his humanity. In both books, the powerful though unhappy ending is balanced by a hopeful note that the character’s downfall has contributed to a happy ending in another place and time. The hopeful addition is important in emphasizing the moral message in each story, which lies in how the central characters are able to find gratification in their defeat.
The transformations of the characters in each work culminate in their respective downfalls, which come with other positive repercussions for themselves. In Silence, Rodrigues’ downfall is epitomized in his new identity as an apostate and a prisoner. However, the positive repercussion of Rodrigues’ apostasy is his amplified understanding of God’s character. As he becomes aware of his spiritual filthiness, Rodrigues becomes ever more grateful of God’s forgiveness and His presence as the only remaining comfort in his life. Rodrigues realizes the presence of God who was with Him the whole time, who told him that “it was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross” (171). His is a God who comes down to be condemned so that His people would not have to be condemned for the sins they commit in their weak and limited flesh. This alternative side of the power struggle is emphasized when Inoue confidently reinstates his victory over Christianity, to which Rodrigues objects, saying, “No, no. […] My struggle was with Christianity in my own heart” (187). Thus, Endo implies that even though Rodrigues’ downfall is apparent in his power struggle against the Japanese, in a more positive light, he has won the faith struggle inside of his own heart through the strengthening of his relationship with God.
In The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s downfall lies in his increasing isolation from humanity and his ultimate death. However, on the other hand, Gregor is able to escape his existentialist ennui through his death. This is evident in the description of Gregor’s train of thought as he lay dying. The narrator describes:
He remembered his family with deep feeling and love. […] He remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection until the clock struck three o’clock in the morning. […] Then without willing it, […] from his nostrils flowed out weakly his last breath. (85)
This passage lies in stark contrast with his feelings in the rest of the book, such as his frustration at having to get out of bed in the morning or his trepidation at Mr. Samsa’s increasingly negative sentiments. For the first time, he feels peaceful and content. Thus, alternatively, the positive repercussion from Gregor’s death is his own victory over the stagnancy of life.
The downfall of the characters also brings positive repercussions to the people around them. In Silence, even though Rodrigues is forever scandalized and imprisoned as an apostate, he imparts his newfound knowledge about salvation to Kichijiro. He consoles Kichijiro’s weakness by saying:
There are neither the strong nor the weak. Can anyone say that the weak do not suffer more than the strong? […] Since in this country there is now no one else to hear your confession, I will do it. […] Go in peace! (191)
Rodrigues relieves Kichijiro’s burden by indirectly noting the lesson that he himself learned through his apostasy: namely, that in their suffering, God Himself had suffered before them and with them. In the end, Kichijiro goes off into the world with hope that he may learn from Rodrigues’ mistakes and lead a faithful life. Similarly, in The Metamorphosis, despite the melancholy of Gregor’s death, that very event allows the Samsa family to move on toward their bright future. Prior to this, Gregor sacrifices his time and efforts for his family by being the breadwinner. However, through his metamorphosis, that sacrifice is amplified. Without Gregor’s financial support, the family is forced to take on their own jobs, which turn out to be a good idea. Gregor’s death is the catalyst that allows the family to not be caged in their comfortable nest, but to keep moving toward a brighter future. The narrator describes how they talked “about future prospects, and they discovered that on closer observations these were not at all bad” (89). This fact is something that they would never risk and discover otherwise unless Gregor’s metamorphosis occurred to break them free. The hopefulness of the situation is particularly highlighted through Grete; the narrator especially describes how “the daughter first lifted herself up and stretched her young body” (90). Kafka sets up Gregor’s death while informing the readers that it allowed for these positive changes to occur.
The hope that presents itself after the downfall of the characters is explored by the authors through the spiritual and natural settings. In both books, the setting changes during the falling action and denouement of the plot. In Silence, Rodrigues drinks in the atmosphere of Japan outside of his window as he sits in captivity. The passage that describes this scene does so with severe melancholy:
His only consolation was to lean against the window and watch the people going to and fro. In the morning, women with boxes of vegetables on their heads would pass by. […] In the evening, bonzes ringing their bells would pass down the slope. He would stare at this scenery of Japan, drinking in every detail. (174)
This passage describes the bucolic and peaceful scenery enjoyed by the Japanese, including the Japanese in the pit that Rodrigues saved by apostatizing. As an ironic contrast, Rodrigues himself is not able to take part in such beauty and is confined to his prison. However, this contrast also serves to highlight the balance between the hopelessness of Rodrigues’ situation and the hopefulness that resulted from his sacrifice. Likewise, in The Metamorphosis after Gregor’s death, the setting of the book dramatically changes. It becomes lighter and more serene, as can be seen from the serenity of the family as they embraced on the morning of Gregor’s death, or how “the car in which they were sitting by themselves was totally engulfed by the warm sun” (89) as they talked to each other about their future. The hopefulness of the situation of the other characters such as Kichijiro and the Samsa family is saturated in contrast with the hopelessness of the central characters. Thus, the two stark images enhance and deepen the balance between despondency and optimism.
The balance created by the bittersweet endings of these books is significant because it allows the authors to fit a hopeful moral message that balances the bleakness of the endings. The outcomes of the conflicts in the stories determine the moral messages conveyed to the readers. Because in both cases, the outcome of the conflict is the demise of the central character, both Endo and Kafka would have a difficult time sending positive messages in negative situations. Thus, the hopeful episodes of the secondary characters allow the authors to impart didactic messages. This stops both books from being a series of miserable events, instead making them into stories that can advise and teach the readers. This balance is evident in both books. Through the hopefulness presented in Silence when Rodrigues acknowledges the hope he has in Christ and imparts that hope to Kichijiro, Endo successfully emphasizes the moral message about God’s amazing grace and forgiveness to even the most vile of sinners. Through the hopefulness presented in The Metamorphosis when the family happily moves on with their lives after Gregor’s transformation, Kafka is able to finalize the meaning of Gregor’s downward spiral as a selfless and unsung sacrifice to allow for a positive metamorphosis in his family.
The two authors have sacrificed conventionality, comfort, and the readers’ good nights’ sleep to deliver the books’ emotionally powerful endings. Overall, Endo and Kafka have gone to great lengths in order to be able to pack more meaning into the stories they spun. However, the grotesqueness of the situations is balanced with a hopeful note to show the readers that their favorite characters did not perish in vain. Thus, through the hope that they give, both stories are able to deliver an ever more powerful moral message straight into the people’s hearts.
Endo, Shusaku. Silence. Taplinger Publishing: New Jersey.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Walking Lion Press: Utah.
Gender and Income: Kafka’s Illustration of Power Throughout The Metamorphosis
Whether it be a gender hierarchy or a power system organized by income, human society has frequently fallen back on some form of an unequal power dynamic. Unfortunately, this type of structure can be extremely damaging to those at the bottom of the hierarchy as well as those on top. The members at the bottom are often disrespected and forgotten while those on top are power hungry and can become authoritarians. Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a text that exemplifies these consequences. Kafka uses the characters of Grete, Gregor and Mr. Samsa to demonstrate two different power structures and their effects. The two power dynamics displayed revolve around gender and income. Kafka uses Grete and Gregor to show the extent of the damage that an unequal gender power structure can have, and he uses the father to show the effects of a capitalist style hierarchy. Moreover, within the category of gender power structures, Kafka focuses on the character of Grete to explain the dynamics of men being higher than women, and vice versa.
At the start of the novella, Grete is portrayed as weak, when she realizes that Gregor is not well, “She had already begun to weep” (15). Grete is also dependent on Gregor, as he supplies the money that the family lives off of and therefore is providing everything that Grete has. Grete’s dependence on Gregor is shown through his plan for her future: “to send her off to the Conservatory next year” (22). Grete needs Gregor to “send” her off to Conservatory school, since he is the breadwinner of the family and she relies on him for money. This shows the unequal power structure between woman and man, with the latter being considered superior because he has control over Grete and her future. Not only are women portrayed as weak in the beginning of the novella, but they are also dependent on a man. However, as the text progresses, the power structure shifts and women become the predominant sex. For example, Grete becomes Gregor’s caretaker after his metamorphosis. This alters the power structure because previously, Grete depends on Gregor for money and her future, but now Gregor has to depend on Grete to bring him food, the substance that is keeping him alive. Gregor describes Grete’s role when he thinks to himself, “She brought him an entire assortment of foodstuffs” (19). Grete also becomes authoritative, especially towards Gregor. This is shown when he accidentally terrifies Mrs. Samsa, “‘Gregor’ his sister shouted, raising her fist with a threatening glower” (29). Previously, Kafka describes Grete as crying and shown as weak, but now she is threatening Gregor and raising her voice towards him. Grete has shifted from being at the bottom of the familial power structure to being at the top.
Kafka depicts the two power structures of men being superior to women and women being greater than men through Grete’s character and also shows the consequences that come out of both of these unequal dynamics. The first power structure that Grete is involved in results in her being considered an unnecessary member of the family. Since she is a traditional woman, she at one point relies on Gregor (the predominant male figure in her life) to provide for her which results in her parents describing her as “a rather useless girl” (25). The second is equally damaging and causes Grete to become power hungry to the point of suggesting to kill her brother. As Grete realizes that she is no longer the worthless child, she craves for more and more power over her brother. This is shown when she persuades her parents to agree to “get rid” of Gregor:“‘Dear parents’, his sister said, striking the table by way of preamble, ‘things cannot go on like this. Even if you two perhaps do not realize it, I most certainly do. I am unwilling to utter my brother’s name before this creature, and therefore will say only: we have to try to get rid of it’” (41). Grete’s action of “striking the table” shows her confidence in herself since she wants the attention of her parents and she wants people to listen to her ideas. Nina Straus, author of the essay, Transforming Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’, shows her belief that the Grete is part of two power structures here: “It is she who will ironically “bloom” as her brother deteriorates; it is she whose mirror reflects women’s present situation as we attempt to critique patriarchal dominance,”(Straus). Straus explains how Kafka manipulates Grete’s character to represent the current power structure women are in when she says, “t is she whose mirror reflects women’s present situation as we attempt to critique patriarchal dominance,”(Straus). Kafka uses Grete’s character to show the consequences of two types of gender power structures, a man being greater than a woman and a woman being superior to a man.
The protagonist of the novella, Gregor, is another character who Kafka manipulates to depict the damages caused by two types of unequal gender power structures. For Gregor, the story begins with his body being transformed into that of an insect. This poses multiple problems, one of which being his inability to communicate. While Gregor is not presented as a human, Kafka uses Gregor’s thoughts to show his role within the family before and after his transformation. Gregor is the only member of the family who earns money before his metamorphosis; this places him at the top of the family power structure, as “Gregor’s future, and that of his family depended on” his earnings (15). Here, the narrator describes Gregor’s significant role in the family as the breadwinner. This shows an unequal gender power structure because Gregor’s father did work at one time, proving he can provide for himself, but the women in the family are both completely dependent on Gregor for money. However, after Gregor’s metamorphosis, he finds himself at the very bottom of the family power structure. Gregor becomes completely dependent on his sister, Grete, as she provides him with food and water, which he needs to survive. Gregor’s appreciation for Grete is shown when the narrator describes Gregor’s feelings: “If only Gregor had been able to speak to his sister and thank her for all she was compelled to do for him”(24). This is an example of the gender power dynamic of women being superior to men, since Gregor is dependant on Grete. As the story progresses, Grete grows into her role as the authoritative power in her relationship with Gregor; she no longer is as caring for Gregor as she is when the story begins. Furthermore, rather than carefully selecting food for him, she now “would quickly thrust some randomly chosen foodstuff into his room with her foot on her way to work in the morning or at midday, only to sweep it out again at night with a quick swipe of the broom” (35). Now that she has become more powerful than him, she has lost the respect she once had for Gregor, since she now “thrust[s] some randomly chosen foodstuff into his room” rather than carefully selecting food Gregor likes. Both of the power structures that Kafka shows through Gregor prove to be damaging and eventually contribute to his death.
The gender power dynamics of men being greater than women and vice versa are extremely damaging. Kafka shows the consequences through the character of Gregor. When Gregor is the breadwinner of the family, he has an enormous amount of pressure on himself to provide for the everyone. This reflects the first power structure of man being greater than woman because Gregor has to provide for the women in his family. This not only puts him under heavy stress, but also prevents him from spending time with his family. While his family is sleeping Gregor hurriedly leaves the house early every morning. This is shown when he says, “my train leaves at five” (4). Gregor has to catch the five a.m. train every morning, suggesting that he wakes up even earlier than his departure time and has to go to bed extremely early if he wants to get enough sleep to work long hours. This schedule does not leave much time for activities other than work and sleep, so Gregor cannot spend very much time with his family. This is damaging because Gregor can’t have relationships with his family members if he never spends time with them. The second power structure Gregor is part of also has serious consequences. Gregor transitions from being the most valued member of the family to being useless. Since he is now not helping his family in any way, he is convinced that he is no longer needed. This leads him to fall into a depression, where he eats “almost nothing at all” (36). In this passage, Gregor refuses to eat and slowly starves himself to death. Through the character of Gregor, Kafka clearly shows how damaging unequal power structure can be. By putting all the pressure on one sex, a situation arises where one feels useless and the other feels overwhelming amounts of pressure to provide. The final character that Kafka uses to show the damages of an unequal power structure is Mr. Samsa. At the start of the novella, Mr. Samsa is unemployed and has debts that Gregor is working to pay off. The father is portrayed as lazy, as he is making Gregor pay of his debts rather than working to pay them off himself. His laziness is shown here: “Gregor’s father was admittedly in good health, but he was old and hadn’t worked in five years” (23). This situation also makes him lower within the power structure of the family because he is not providing in any way. While this is not a gender power structure, it is still significant/vital because it reveals how power works within a capitalist society.
Although Gregor is jobless in the beginning, once the family realizes that Gregor most likely is not going to transform back into a human form, the father decides to work again. This gives him a sense of pride and reverses the power structure. Now, Gregor is deemed the useless one, while the father is praised for being the breadwinner. The pride the father has is shown when he refuses “to take off his porter’s uniform even at home” (33). Here, he does not change because he is so proud of his new job and providing for the family. Although this power structure is focused on money rather than gender, the consequences that come from it are equally as damaging. One of the consequences of this power dynamic are that the father has lost all respect for his son, Gregor. In one instance when Gregor comes out of his room, Mr. Samsa fills “his pockets from the fruit bowl on the sideboard” and tosses “apple after apple in Gregor’s direction” (31). In this passage, Gregor’s father attacks him instead of showing feelings of worry for his son and his current state. His condescending attitude is shown when he is rude towards the tenants staying in the apartment. He sees the tenants as inferior to him since he is the provider of the place where they stay. His disrespect is shown through his actions here: “Gregor’s father appeared to be once more so firmly in the grip of his own stubbornness that he forgot the basic respect that, after all, he owed his tenants” (40). Mr. Samsa, “forgot the basic respect that, after all, he owed his tenants” (40) which shows that he is disrespectful to those who he perceives to be lower than him, even if they actually are not. Kafka uses the father to show that while gender power structures are damaging, there are other types of power dynamics, such as monetary based structures, that can be equally damaging.
Kafka’s The Metamorphosis delves into the effects an unequal power structure can have on people. Whether the power dynamic is between two people of different genders or different incomes, Kafka shows throughout his story the consequences that this inequality can have. The three main characters that he uses to show the damage are Grete, Gregor, and Mr. Samsa. Grete and Gregor show two gender power dynamics, man being superior to woman and woman being greater than man. Mr. Samsa’s character is manipulated to show the effects of an income based power structure, both when he is earning nothing and when he becomes the breadwinner in the family. All three of these characters are faced with a power dynamic that eventually changes; Kafka does this to show that both versions of the structure are damaging, and that society should strive for equality rather than hierarchy.
Freedom in Isolation
In The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the authors use the motif of solitude and isolation to symbolize freedom. These qualities free Gregor Samsa and the town of Macondo, respectively, from external troubles.
In The Metamorphosis, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning transformed into an insect. Gregor must now deal with this transformation, as it will forever change his life. Though Gregor does not realize it at first, he has actually been enslaved by his family for some time. He has an unconditional sense of obligation for his family, as he works hard to pay off the family debt “with great earnestness”, and dreams of sending his sister, Grete, to learn to play the violin professionally. His devotion to his family reveals how thoughtful and compassionate he is. However, his family generally does not view him as a family member, but rather a source of income. Upon his transformation, the family is concerned with how it would affect their finances, rather than his well being. This is exemplified on the morning of Gregor’s transformation. It is the first day he has missed work in five years, and his family’s immediate concern is for his job. As Gregor is freed from this obligation, he realizes the true nature of his family. The more they isolate themselves from him, the more he realizes that they have been oppressing him all along. Gregor eventually learns to accept the irreversibility of his metamorphosis, and realizes that there is nothing he could do except to adjust his attitude and accept the change that has taken place.
There is a strong imbalance of freedom and duty throughout the novel. Though it is evident that Gregor hates his job, he essentially is confined to it by his duty to his family: “it was […] a requirement of family duty to suppress one’s aversion and to endure—nothing else, just endure” (Kafka 50). He wants to fulfill his duty and dreams of the day where he can finally pay off the family debt. Gregor is pressured and confined to work in a stressful environment for the benefit of his family:
“The stresses of trade are much greater than the work going on at head office, and, in addition to that, I have to deal with the problems of traveling, the worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which never come from the heart.” (Kafka 4)
Freedom is obtained in his transformation, but is cut short by his family, who continues a sense of imprisonment. Instead of comforting Gregor, they lock him inside a room, which they begin to fill with garbage. This room can be a metaphor, symbolizing Gregor’s life in confinement. The garbage that they put in the room may represent a false sense of love that they have given him. While it is true that his transformation has literally dehumanized him, it is also important to note the psychological dehumanizing effects that it has on his family. Gregor fails to obtain freedom, for when he is not imprisoned by his job, he is imprisoned by his family. As it turns out, the only path for Gregor to follow to achieve freedom is in death, where he is finally isolated from all of his troubles.
Similarly, the town of Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude are also confined through interactions and the changes that it brings. Though the novel itself attributes many Biblical allusions, the characters in the novel are generally not very religious. It is implied that the town of Macondo was a better place when it was isolated from organized religion. Religion is treated with much skepticism throughout the novel, and this is illustrated in Jose Arcadio Buendia’s mocking of the local priest. Also, Aureliano Segundo laughs at the idea of his son wanting to become pope. The novel suggests that life in Macondo is best lived with enthusiasm and with few restraints. This is exemplified by the fact that most of the characters in the novel are uninhibited by religious, moral, and sexual values. Therefore, it is implied that isolation from religion grants people more freedom.
Other forms of isolation such as political isolation and geographical isolation can also be attributed to freedom. For a long period of time, the town of Macondo has been cursed with violence between warring Liberals and Conservatives. The fact that characters such as Colonel Aureliano Buendia constantly and consistently seek war and reject peace, resulting in bloodshed for the town, reveals that war confines the town to chaos, as opposed to isolation granting the town political freedom. Upon the construction of the railroad, the town of Macondo has now become connected to the world. No longer isolated, it is now vulnerable to the evils of capitalist foreigners. These foreigners oppress the people of Macondo with violence and corrupt the town with materialism. The foreigners create a police force that imposes strict rules for the people, thereby stripping away the town of its freedom.
Though isolation essentially drives both the town of Macondo and Gregor to their eventual destruction, it has indefinitely granted both entities freedoms in various forms. In The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the motif of solitude and isolation is used to symbolize freedom, in contrast to interaction and the theme of dehumanization and confinement. Gregor Samsa and the town of Macondo essentially achieve freedom in their demise, isolating themselves from all of their problems and troubles. In an existentialist point of view, it should be noted that perhaps true freedom cannot be fully achieved until death. Therefore, everyone and everything may actually somehow always be confined to something.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Clayton, Delaware: Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classics, 2005. Print.
García Márquez, Gabriel . One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1970. Print.
The Nature of Existence in “The Metamorphosis,” a Novel by Franz Kafka
Time Writing Rewrite: The Metamorphosis
The nature of existence; and more precisely, the nature of humans and animals is one of selfish survival. In literature, we see this idea through novels such as Heart of Darkness that takes a historical, realistic approach to the concept, and also The Road which takes this idea to an extreme, set in a post-apocalyptic world. The Metamorphosis poses a question of the nature of existence in terms of a person’s value to society. Franz Kafka places his protagonist, Gregor, in a bizarre situation in order to answer this question of the nature of existence through the novel.
The Metamorphosis conveys a message and a judgement on society through the story of a family that violates the archetypal family order where the father is the head of the household; in this family, the father figure is Gregor, the son, who is the only source of support and income. Gregor’s peculiar transformation into a bug creates a father and son conflict about the restoration of the symbolic order of the family; the law of the father, and conveys the central theme of the novel: A person’s value in society is equal to how much other people value them.
The source of the conflict between Gregor and his father is the role reversal of the two characters’ archetypes. Gregor is the sole working member of the family, which is a sharp contrast to the symbolic order where the father is the main supporter of the family. Gregor’s first thoughts as he wakes up as a bug were about his job: “What is strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen.” (7) Gregor, subconsciously, values and prioritizes his career over his state of being because he needs to “pay off [his] parents debt” (8) and to support his family. This characteristic of Gregor is the foundation of his father’s resentment and the only value that Gregor has to the family; setting up how he reacts to Gregor’s transformation.
Gregor’s father is initially developed as weak and unfulfilling of the father role: “his father was knocking on one side door, weakly but with his fist” (7). This introduction to Gregor’s father gives the readers a glimpse of the father’s character before Gregor’s transformation. His weak knocking build that resigned and senile image of the father. A notable choice of words in the sentence is that the father was knocking “with his fist”. Fists are associated with anger and violence; emotions that the father has towards Gregor throughout the novel. The father’s introduction in the novel subtly develops his quiet resentment towards Gregor, which he does not act upon until Gregor’s transformation; a catalyst for change.
The failure of Gregor’s father to fulfill his archetype is further developed in the rising action of the novel. “The same tired man as used to be laying there in June in his bed when Gregor came back from his business trips” (30). This disturbance of the archetypal family order fosters the father’s inadequacy and resentment towards Gregor, who has taken over the father figure role. Gregor’s transformation is an opportunity for the father to restore the symbolic order.
Gregory’s transformation changes the mechanical, dull nature of his family’s life because Gregory becomes unable to work; Gregory’s father acts on this opportunity and is described as a man who “was standing up straight now; dressed up in a smart blue uniform… worn by the employees at the banking institute” (30). In some aspects, Gregor’s father’s transformation is more drastic than Gregor’s own transformation because this description seems to be of a completely different man than the one of the “tired man” of the past. “Standing straight” emphasizes his confidence and power as he looms over the bug form of Gregor. And the “blue uniform” is a sharp contrast to his home clothes during his unemployment.
Gregor’s father’s new ego is further developed in the following pages of the novel, leading up to a climax. “He regularly fell asleep and then could only be prevailed upon with the greatest difficulty to trade his chair for the bed” (55). This stubborn reluctance to return to his bed is a reflection of Gregor’s father’s newfound confidence as a result of being employed and making progress towards the restoration of the family order. The chair is a symbol of being the father figure and sitting with power as opposed to the bed, which is a symbol of his unemployement and unhealthy retirement to the bed; a weakness in laying down. By finding a job as a response to Gregor’s transformation, Gregor’s father is restoring the symbolic order of the family. However, the order cannot be fully restored as long as Gregor, the former father figure, is still alive and technically employed.
To remove Gregor from the family order, Gregor’s father “filled his pockets with [apples]… [and] threw one apple after another.” In throwing the apples, Gregor’s father is giving Gregor the symbolic knowledge (from the biblical Tree of Knowledge) of his resentment and feelings towards Gregor. The climatic struggle between Gregor and his father is a revelation of Gregor’s role and value in the family post-transformation. Ironically, Gregor’s love creates ignorance because he is never aware of his family’s true feelings towards him. In his last moments, he “thought back to his family with emotion and love” (41). Therefore, the conflict also serves to convey a strong message that familial love transcends conflict and death; in Gregor’s case, his father’s betrayal and hostility.
In the conclusion of the novel, the family reflects on Gregor’s death without remorse for killing him. Gregor’s father, with success in restoring the symbolic order, remarks “if only he understood us” (68). In saying this, Gregor’s father, and Kafka, have two meanings. Gregor’s father needed Gregor to understand the symbolic order; the reason for his death. And also, that Gregor’s transformation made him a burden, and valueless to the family because of his inability to work. Kafka conveys his message on a person’s value in society through Gregor’s bizarre situation, and in writing Gregor’s father’s words, he is hoping the audience understands his message.
The father vs. son conflict of The Metamorphosis came from a disturbance of the symbolic order where the father provides for the family and serves as a revelation of the truth about society and the value of a person, and also the extent of familial love. Once the order, the employment of Gregor’s father, was restored, the family did not value Gregor anymore and considered him a burden before murdering him. Gregor’s bizarre situation conveys the idea that a person’s value in society is equal to how much other people value them; a critical message that resonates with the readers as they reflect on their value to their own family and society.
The Relationship Between Gregor Samsa and His Father in The Metamorphosis, a Short Story by Franz Kafka
Gregor and his Father
In Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis”, the character Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and finds that he has transformed into a bug. Gregor’s metamorphosis into a bug reveals a lot about his relationship with his family. In regards to his relationship with his father, Gregor’s true feeling for his father is revealed to be that he feels that he has an obligation to support his father financially. Gregor’s father, however, is revealed that his true feelings towards Gregor is that he despises him and that he does not care for him.
Gregor feels that he as an obligation to support his father. After he realizes that he has turned into a bug, Gregor is completely unconcerned about his physical state. The only thing he cared about was his job, worrying that his “boss would certainly come round with the doctor from the medical insurance company, accuse his parents of having a lazy son, and accept the doctor’s recommendation not to make any claim as the doctor believed that no-one was ever ill but that many were workshy” (Metamorphosis). Gregor works at a job he despises to pay off his father’s debt and to take his father’s place as the supporter of the family after his father’s business failed. He says that “if I didn’t have my parents to think about I’d have given in my notice a long time ago” (Metamorphosis), showing that the only reason that he works at the job is for his parents. Even as a bug, Gregor was selfless and “was still there and had not the slightest intention of abandoning his family” (Metamorphosis). He does everything that he can to benefit his father and his family, without being concerned about the pain that he is causing himself. When Gregor was attempting to open the door after his transformation, he thought about his family and “bit on the key with all his strength, paying no attention to the pain he was causing himself” (Metamorphosis). Gregor, both as a human and as a bug, cares more about his father than he cares about himself.
Gregor’s father’s true feelings for Gregor are completely different from Gregor’s selfless feelings for him. His father despises him and uses him for his own benefit. After his father’s business failure, Gregor worked hard to provide for the family since his father no longer could. At first his father and his family was “astonished and delighted” but then he “had got used to it” (Metamorphosis). By providing for the family, Gregor’s relationship with his father distanced, saying that he “only remained close to his sister now” (Metamorphosis). This suggests that by Gregor taking over as the provider for the family, his father might be ashamed that his son has to pay off his debt and of the reversal of roles since the father is suppose to support the family. After Gregor’s transformation into a bug, his father’s true resent for him shows. Because he is no longer providing for the family and has become a burden instead, his father shows disgust and hostility towards him. When he first sees him as a bug, he is hostile towards him and “seized the chief clerk’s stick, picked up a large newspaper from the table, and used them to drive Gregor back into his room” (Metamorphosis). When Gregor gets stuck between the door, “his father gave him a hefty shove from the behind which released him from where he was held and sent him flying, and heavily bleeding, deep into his room” (Metamorphosis). He also shows extreme hostility towards Gregor when he “had decided to bombard him” with apples and his sister had to “[beg] him to spare Gregor’s life” (Metamorphosis). His hostility towards Gregor and his disregard for causing him injuries shows that he does not care for him nor does he feel sympathy for him despite all that Gregor has done for him when he was human. As a human, Gregor did not have a close relationship with his father, but his father tolerated him because he was using him for support. As a bug, he is now a burden and no longer supporting him, so he is able show his dislike towards him since he is no longer dependant on him anymore.
In Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor’s metamorphosis into a bug shows the true feelings that Gregor and his father have towards each other. Gregor genuinely believes that he has a obligation to support his father and help him when his business failed. He put his wants and needs after his father’s. His father’s true feelings for him is that he despises him, both before and after his metamorphosis. His despise for Gregor shows after Gregor’s metamorphosis because Gregor could no longer support him and therefore he sees no use for him.