Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis
by Franz Kafka
Paperback94 pages
Published August 3rd 2006 by Waking Lion Press(first published 1915)
Rating: (3 of out 5)

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, "The Metamorphosis." It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequecy, guilt, and isolation, "The Metamorphosis" has taken its place as one of the mosst widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

I found it difficult to cope with the absurdity of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to discover he has, mysteriously, been turned into a bug. And we are not talking about something like a butterfly, or ladybug. While there is never a specific mention of the type of insect Gregor has been turned into, one was infer from the rather detailed description that it is something in the cockroach family. Ew. Now, I don’t know about other people, but if I found myself turned into a giant bug, with no explantion as to why or how this happened, I would not aim to live my life the way I had previously, before I grew several more legs, antennae and could climb walls…

Leading a normal life is exactly what our poor dear protagonist wishes to do however. He wakes up, discovers he is a bug, wonders briefly how that could have happened, then shrugs his insect shoulders and decides it is time to go to work.

Throughout the story, I felt sorry for Gregor. His family was quite atrocious. Before his transformation, Gregor was the bread winner of his family, which consists of his mother, father, and younger sister. He worked long and hard, at a job he could not stand just so he could support his family and allow them to live a comfortable life. The real kicker is, Gregor gets no thanks or any sign of gratitude from any of his family members. He does this for them out of love, yet receives little to no love in return. After turning into a bug, Gregor can see that his life has changed, he no longer holds the position as the son; he is not useful because he cannot earn money anymore, he is just a giant bug that is taking up space in the house. Gregor was dehumanized by his work, hence the transformation into a bug occurs.

To make matters worse, his family, naturally, doesn’t take the transformation very well. They neglect him in the end, and the ending is just tragic.

While I didn’t particularly like the story itself, I admired Kafka’s use of magic realism. This was a book I read for my Modern European Novel course. The discussions we had on our interpretations of this story were immensely intriguing. That is what I believe the purpose behind writing this story might have been for Kafka. He wanted to give his readers something that did not have just one sole interpretation, something that would boggle the mind and make readers think and delve deeper into what he was trying to get across. And because he made me do just that while reading this novel, I gave it 3 stars instead of two. The story itself, I did not like so much, but the way it made me think made up for that. 
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