The Appropriate Age for Children to Read The Metamorphosis of Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka for First Year Experience at School
I believe that students should be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of their minds (King James Version, Rom. 12.2). When new freshmen begin their matriculation to CSM, they are starting their lives as adults. Because the incoming students’ lives are changing, they should read a book that gives them a new insight to changing and adapting.
CSM’s vision statement is “Transforming lives through lifelong learning and service.” New students attending CSM should read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka because it will inspire them to look at their lives from a new perspective. The book is a modernist fiction that takes place during the early 20th century. In The Metamorphosis, the main character is Gregor Samsa. Gregor is faced with providing for his family, and then one day he turns into a bug. Over the course of the book, we see how this affects his family and his humanity. A book with a subject this intriguing will lead students to be entertained and captivated by a subject that’s also philosophical.
Reading this book for the First Year Experience will exercise their critical thinking. While this book is a short read, it is also complex and profound. I would say that it is difficult to understand completely in one sitting. The students may want to re-read it and analyze it, encouraging their reading and critical thinking habits. For example, students may be lead to question the nature of consciousness. How can we know when to trust our perceptions? Early in the novel, as Gregor understands his new physical state, the narrator tells us “At all costs he must not lose consciousness right now.” It is important for students to remain conscious of the present and not allow their minds to be clouded by previous occurrences as it can impact future decisions. Students need to remain consciously aware and analyze situations logically.
Many questions can be raised from this book. One quote from part three of the books says “a requirement of family duty is to suppress one’s aversion and to endure—nothing else, just endure,” (pg.51). This quote to me explains how many students may feel about their responsibility to family as they transition into adulthood and try to achieve a higher education. They may begin to question how important family is to them and if they are willing to set other things aside because of that responsibility. This book also raises questions about hopelessness and humanity. On page 65-68 Gregors sister (Grete) pleads with her parents to get rid of Gregor. To Grete, her brother no longer exists. Gregor as the insect is a burden to their lives, and Grete believes her real brother would have left voluntarily when seeing the hardships his transition has caused. These few pages alone can spark a conversation about what it means to be human. The struggles the Samsa family goes through in this story can apply to real life. Students can reflect on the similarities and raise questions in their lives.
Some people on the committee may be concerned that The Metamorphosis discourages students to transform because the main protagonist ceases to change. Throughout the novel as Gregor physically changes his mentality stays the same. He is trapped in a life he does not want to live; he does things out of responsibility. The novel raises questions of the value of a feeling of duty to family vs. duty to oneself. This is a typical question for study in the liberal arts, so exposure to such questions prepares students better for the college experience. I believe that students may see this in themselves and seek to pursue things that make them happy. Others on the committee may see this book as too dark for incoming freshmen. Young adults go through their own inner turmoil. This book could add a new insight, leading them to branch out of their comfort zones, unlike the central character of The Metamorphosis. One example of Gregor’s retreat into the self is this: Gregor describes how he presses his body against the door to listen to his father speak because it brings him joy in his imprisonment. Though nothing is keeping him imprisoned except for himself, as he could have left at any time if he wanted. Gregor accepted his new form and kept himself hidden for the sake of his family, knowing how it burdened them. Students may see his various disconnections in this novel and make a change. Gregor is accepting of whoever he is expected to be. Incoming students may begin to challenge that and push themselves to achieve personal goals.
The back cover of The Metamorphosis says that the novel is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. This means there are many materials and discussions out there for CSM and the new students to review and use. This will promote students to jump into that discussion with others and further their learning. Students at CSM have a responsibility as engaged learners to use their ideas to contribute to the academic community. They will gain more comfort in expressing ideas and opinions if they are engaged in a fascinating subject. As they contribute to the discussion and learn from professors and peers, they will have a desire to continue to learn and express ideas. It will turn into a cycle of education.
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