Instructor name Date Exposing Human Vulnerability in Kafka’s Metamorphosis Many people find it difficult to make sense out of Franz Kafka’s novella, The Metamorphosis. The action of the story is a detailed sketch of a man's descent into the existence of an insect…
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The idea of the bug that Gregor Samsa becomes is intended to be loathsome, toxic, and unpleasant; something avoided by humans. This concept is essential to interpreting any of Kafka’s work. Kafka’s storytelling is characterized by pessimism, dark humor, and a keen wit. It exposes his underlying cynicism shaped by a life of exploitation, misery and injustice. Within this story, Kafka uses Gregor as a symbol and a means by which he could explore his own difficult relationship with his father as well as his sense of alienation from society. Gregor's metamorphosis causes him to be treated as something less than human, a feeling Kafka felt deeply as evidenced in its appearance in many of his other writings. Through Gregor's metamorphosis, Kafka is able to express the pain of his personal existence, allowing Gregor to reveal Kafka's social situation and embody the author's sense of social, religious, and philosophical alienation. There are too many biographical similarities between the fictional Gregor Samsa and the real Franz Kafka to deny the link and the probability that Gregor's impressions are closely aligned with those of his author. At the beginning of the story, Gregor is painted as the good son. He is a simple man, hardworking employee, and is highly self-sacrificing as he struggles to both support his family and pay off his parents' debts. He does all this without complaint even though he is afforded little consideration or appreciation from the family he is attempting to help. This image of Gregor's home life is very similar to what is known of Kafka's home life, particularly as it relates to the relationship between Kafka/Gregor and their respective fathers. Kafka's father, Herman, was a businessman who had little understanding or patience for a son that would not follow in his capable footsteps (Brod, 1976). After hearing his shortcomings recited to him over the course of years, Kafka felt reviled and unwanted, like vermin. This is confirmed in his unpublished “Letter to His Father”, in which he even refers to himself as “Ungeziefer” (Kafka, 2009); that is, as vermin (Brod, 43). Other evidence of Kafka's sense of intimidation by his father is the fact that he developed a stammer that became so severe in his father's presence that he could hardly communicate. This issue created yet greater alienation between Kafka and the remainder of his family, leading to a situation in which he wrote in his diary, they had become “all strangers to me, we are related only by blood” (Brod, 229). A later diary entry confessed Kafka's final analysis of this destructive relationship, writing that his father had "inevitably broken my spirit" (Brod, 231). Many of these sentiments can be found in the relationship between Gregor and his father in the story. Understanding Kafka's history makes it easy to trace how Gregor’s transformation reflects Kafka’s intense feelings of isolation and vulnerability as well as his frustration in not being able to protect himself or his emotions with any sort of ‘armor’, especially when dealing with his father. Gregor's father is immediately introduced as impatient, demanding, possessing a violent temper. When it is discovered Gregor is still at home at 6:45 in the morning, his father begins pounding on Gregor's door with his fist and turns away Gregor's breakfast. Every time Mr. Samsa enters the scene, it is with reference to violence. Upon the first appearance of Gregor before the rest of
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