“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
We know that Kafka’s life can be hardly called happy, full of joy and supported by loving family. Instead, Kafka lived a miserable life. And in his original and extraordinary short-story “The Metamorphosis” he prefigured the oppression and despair of the late 20th century. Moreover, in the story Kafka presents symbolically dramatic transformation taken place in his own life. In particular, Kafka’s complex relations are the core of the story. Kafka didn’t have another way to present his fears, disappointments and misunderstanding – he couldn’t simply speak about them with his family. Thus, his only opportunity to share his problems was to present them in literary form. In his stories Kafka shows new world – real world with all its miseries, unfairness and selfishness because it was the world Kafka used to live in. After reading the novel I realize that Kafka is willing to show us that people always tend to exploit others.
The short-story presents respectable person, Gregor Samsa, whose life is suddenly changed by physical disability. I think that “The Metamorphosis” is autobiographical story, and there is a strong parallel between Gregor and Franz Kafka. I think the author portrays himself in the image of Gregor, whereas his father is presented as Gregor’s father. Kafka’s relations with his father were a real-life nightmare. He valued and loved his father, but later he realized that it was an illusion and he simply though that he was loved and cared, as Gregor did. Kafka’s strangeness, similar to Gregor’s disability, helps the author to realize what is good and what is bad, what to expect from society and from people. Both Kafka and Gregor see that white has become black and black has become white. The true nature of Kafka’s father is revealed the same way as Gregor’s father. In the story Kafka shows that one day you awake and realize that your values and beliefs have reversed.
The story opens with the main hero discovering that he has transformed into a giant cockroach and, thus, all the activities he used to, has become hardly possible. Through new Gregor’s life, Kafka presents dull and gloomy environment that foreshadows author’s everyday life. Gregor’s difficulties of getting up seem to signify author’s actual feelings and pains associated with his family and his childhood. Gregor’s difficulties are difficulties that Kafka faced the very morning as he was very miserable to get out of the bed. In my opinion, our world is not ready to accept extraordinary and strange personalities as society views them as mad.
I am sure that Gregor’s transformation into the cockroach is not the central transformation in the short-story. Instead, the author uses Gregor’s transformation as the catalyst for more shocking and unexpected transformation of the Gregor’s family. In such a way, the author shows that in his life he also expected his father to transform from autocratic person into gentler one. With story progression we see that Gregor’s family is transforming from sympathetic and helpless into hostile and emancipated. I think that Gregor’s physical transformation hasn’t changed him – he still struggles with daily routines till his body makes him surrender and accept he is not human. When Gregor faces rejection and scorn, he tries to justify his family’s anger and disappointment.
Gregor is the only contributor to family’s well-being, but now family has to turn on him. Gregor reveals that even his beloved sister thinks he should be disposed of as he is not Gregor they used to live with. In the story Kafka reflects on many negatives of his personal life, physically and mentally. Franz Kafka lived a miserable life; he was haunted by his oppressive and autocratic father. Kafka was afraid of his father and he would prefer to lie in the bed for the rest of his life instead of asking father to help. The same situation is with Gregor. We see that Gregor’s father throws an apple with such a force that apple is stuck in his back. Gregor becomes infected and nobody helps him. It is a strong parallel between the hero and the author. Both of them can’t realize that no one is willing to help them, to take care of them and, what is more important, to love them despite their disabilities.
Kafka shows that you are respected and loved only when you are able to contribute society; otherwise, you are ignored and neglected. Gregor’s family has fully reflected the idea. The use of apple is symbolical as Gregor’s sin is rooted in his very existence. Gregor dies and his death symbolizes human selfish nature. To my disappointment, professional success, social position and appearance value more than inner world. You are valued by ability to lead productive life.
Summing up, in the story Franz Kafka presents personal devils and ambivalent feelings towards his intemperate and overbearing father whose values contradicted Kafka’s aesthetic interests. Author’s writing was hampered by his family and for many years Kafka had been living in the shadow of his dominating father. Franz was always viewed as a failure. The same is with Gregor – when he becomes an insect, his family argues that he is useless and a real burden for them. Kafka’s father wanted him to become a businessman and, thus, Kafka was often beaten. It is a strong parallel with Gregor’s situation, when his father throws an apple with a force.
Through the image of Gregor the author asks us: if one day we appear to be not socially acceptable, will we be still loved and respected? As Gregor, Kafka didn’t have tender and loving family. It is not physical disability that kills Gregor; instead, it is human selfish nature that has played its crucial role. I think that Gregor’s change is Kafka’s change as they try to resist society. Dying Gregor realizes that he has no other choice than to die as, in such a way, he will be escaped from cruelty and unfairness. In the image of Gregor, Kafka shows that he has also remained unrecognized and neglected. And Gregor’s death symbolizes Kafka’s vanishing hope to be understood and appreciated. Summing up, the author shows that our life is not what we used to think of it. The story has changed my attitudes towards the world and I see that today you are on the top of the ladder and the next day you are at the bottom of it.