Metaphorsis by Franz Kafka
Metamorphosis has many themes but the author Franz Kafka chose to especially have a strong focus on alienation. Having experienced alienation from his own family especially his father, this is reflected in his writing. Even in sources, having been so isolated that he developed mental illness. Metamorphosis brings a light to these themes that can be relate on a personal level. Franz Kafka wrote Metamorphosis to express alienation that he experienced in the odd case of Gregor. Gregor is a salesman who wakes up one morning as a cockroach and goes through the events of being a cockroach up to his death.
Gregor is alienated by his family even before he became a cockroach, having to work and be the sole provider for his family. The cockroach is a symbolic representation in how Gregor feels disgusted with himself and thinking of that he is a scum similarly to how we would view a cockroach as a disgusting vile creature. Admitting himself that there was a separation emotionally with his family.
Gregor…congratulated himself for his cautious habit, acquired from his traveling, of locking all doors at night even when he was at home. (Pg. 6) Gregor has already isolated himself from his family, even though he’s at home that gives an indication that he doesn’t have trust or a strong connection with his family to have his room unlocked. And Gregor is feeling alienated from the fact that he works all day, his work and family not allowing him to actually make relationships since he’s busy all day with traveling.
Gregor isn’t the only one who shows a disconnection with his family, his father shows this throughout the story. The father has been the one to physically hurt Gregor when he transformed to a cockroach even after the fact that he knows it’s Gregor. “No plea of Gregor’s helped, no plea was even understood; however humbly he might turn his head, his father merely stamped his feet more forcefully..he drove Gregor on, as if there were no obstacle..his father gave him a hard shove, which was truly his salvation, and bleeding profusely, he flew far into his room.” (Pg. 19) Knowing the fact that Gregor is this insect from seeing no one else in the room other than Gregor as the cockroach, his father still shows this aggression, having no empathy toward him. Gregor has in fact changed into a giant cockroach from the fact no one would of been able to be in his room which shows the disconnection between Gregor and his father to be more obvious. Not only that but soon they are putting things into Gregor room, “Many things had become superfluous, and though they certainly weren’t salable, on the other hand, they could not just be thrown out. All these things migrated into Gregor’s room. Likewise the ashcan and the garbage can from the kitchen. Whatever was not being used at the moment was just flung into Gregor’s room by the cleaning woman.” (Pg.43) Even though he’s in this form, they don’t really do anything to make him feel comfortable. Instead, they made it into a storage room, sending the message that Gregor isn’t a part of the family anymore. His family exiling and isolating Gregor since he no longer financially useful to them. Frank Kafka provided this to drill in the point that Gregor is completely alienated from his family before and now that he needs them, having been just used to provide for them then discarded once he’s no longer able to.
Frank Kafka then drives the point in how Gregor is alienated by his own family, similarly to what Frank Kafka had gone through with his own family. He goes through the disconnection between the mind and body of a person who experienced severe alienation for a part of their time. And Healthline provides a definition that alienation in its meaning is a loss of identity, a sense of being exploited or being isolated which could lead a person to feel a disconnection with themselves. This can connect from being social to job-related aspects of life which can be seen through Gregor in his own everyday life before his transformation and during. Gregor shows the signs of being disconnected with himself from having lack of self worth, “A picture of my existence…would show a useless wooden stake covered in snow…stuck loosely at a slant in the ground in a ploughed field on the edge of a vast open plain on a dark winter night.” (Pg. 38) He calls himself useless in this, giving off his own feelings that he won’t be missed or even found just like the stake he describes. Frank Kafka reveals how Gregor’s emotions reflects from the job which he despises and his family having alienated him into a physical representation of him turning into a gigantic cockroach.
Gregor no longer feels comfortable in the open, seeking to be in a dark place of the room which is under the couch and that is reflected on the point that Gregor is emotionally accepting that he is this disgusting creature . “But the empty high-ceilinged room in which he was forced to lie flat on the floor made him nervous, without his being able to tell why since it was, after all, the room in which he had lived for the past five years and turning half unconsciously and not without a slight feeling of shame, he scuttled under the couch.” (Pg. 21) His family had already been sending the message that he is not a part of the house since they have taken over his room. It reinforced the idea that he is not welcomed causing Gregor to seek out comfort in being by himself with the items in the room especially the couch where he can hide himself in the darkness that it provides. This is a symptom that comes from being disconnected from body and mind because of being alienated for so long. The person is no longer safe in their comfort zone and other symptoms show that Gregor instead of finding a solution, accepts this by the fact he admits he enjoys it when he finds ways to entertain himself in his room. “He was especially fond of hanging from the ceiling; it was quite different from lying on the floor; he could breathe more freely; his body had a light swing to it; and up there, relaxed and almost happy.” (Pg. 25) Gregor instead of staying with his human aspects, he starts to completely forget about it and starts to venture to more of his cockroach body and mind. Accepting it and finding joy in doing this simple thing of hanging upside down which does make him feel better just like hiding under the couch since it was dark.
Showing the disconnection Gregor has with his mind and body now that he no longer has that burden to provide for his family, being just trapped in his old room which makes him fall deeper into his alienation. Franz Kafka wrote Gregor like this for the sole purpose that he felt like this in his own personal life, having used his literature to escape from his father who directed his anger toward him. Being alienated from his own family and even suffered tuberculosis which would be similarly compared to how Gregor felt when he transformed into the cockroach. Franz Kafka also had to support his family at a job which he did not enjoy, doing it to mostly for his sister Ottla and from this, he had clinical depression from the amount of stress, pain and how much he was pushed into alienation from his own family especially from his father who did not accept him. And Franz Kafka wrote Gregor this way since he himself went through all those emotions, showing how our daily life shapes our mental health, affecting it so much that we can’t live through it. This shows how much anyone can be affected by being alienated.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Poem, Alone, goes through the emotions of a teenager feeling alone, alienating themselves from others and others alienating them at that time in their life. At this age many don’t see others and we don’t bring others along from the fear of not fitting in or not knowing how to. Alienating ourselves to be alone which causes us to be depressed and believing that we are going to be alone. And he does this, in an emotional level, physically we could not be alone but in our own feelings, we seem to stuck by ourselves with no one willing to take us in from the fear of being rejected at that age. Edgar Allan Poe reflects his own emotions in this poem as well, writing it when he was barely 21 and probably how he felt in not being able to fit in during his time. This is also seen in Metamorphosis when Gregor feels out of place, ..he was not at all in the mood to look after his family, he was filled with a simple rage about the lack of attention he was shown.. Gregor knows that he isn’t welcomed by his family since they are no longer paying attention to him. His family is attempting to forget about him by leaving Gregor in his room and avoiding to make any form of contact with him.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley shows throughout the story how the Monster is being alienated from his own creator. He is naive at the beginning of the story but later on accepts to be the Monster when everyone only treats him as such. Everything is related in them which bears reference to my accursed origin; the whole detail of that series of disgusting circumstances which produced it is set in view the minutest description of my odious and loathsome person is given, in language which painted your own horrors and rendered mine indelible. I sickened as I read. “Hateful day when I received life!” I exclaimed in agony. Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even YOU turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. And this shows how the Monster reflects the same emotions that Gregor had felt with his own transformation into a cockroach being alienated while Victor alienated the Monster he created. ..seemed to have reminded even his father that Gregor was a member of the family, in spite of his present pathetic and repulsive shape, who could not be treated as an enemy.. Gregor knowledges the fact that he is repulsive in this form, similarly to how the Monster feels in Frankenstein. Their physical appearance being the main cause in why they’re both being alienated by those who are family to them. The Monster was able see all that Victor became in those long months of him being stuck in his lab, making him until he lived which in a result gave Victor a Monster in which he was horrified of. The Monster became what Victor had become during that time, condemning him to be alone even before he had came into the world.
Alienation is often expressed in many types of literatures like Metamorphosis, Frankenstein and “Alone” which are outlets on how the writers felt and expressing it out in their works. This just shows how Metamorphosis isn’t the only literature that uses alienation, other works such as “Alone” by Edgar Allan Poe and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley use this theme to get their points through as well.
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