2018/03/11 - 07:06
(SP:) An Essay On 'The Metamorphosis'
by Liliana Jimenez
In the metamorphosis by Frank Kafka, there are significants actions and transformations which make the story sad, and strange with a happy ending. Explanations that are dramatic events that intensify the excitement of all these actions. Reality and refection play and important role in this story because the events that happened could be applied and assimilated with modern society.
The story is very sad and realistic, some of the things that are related in Kafka's story can be found in modern families today. Gregor was a man who sacrifies himself working to pay his father's debts, instead off on his own where he could prospered. Gregor never was recognized by his family of all the efforts that he did, he was taken for granted and he was expected to support the family but never considering what his needs and wants might be. When Gregor became a bug, that was the moment when they started to see how important Gregor was financially. As a result his mother, father and sister had to work together, in order support themselves. This could be applied in the real world when people do not really recognize anyone's values or good actions. Sometimes when it is too late is that people start to appreciate, but in Kafka's story Gregor never was appreciate by anyone.
In his transformations, Gregor was rejected by his family like a sick or invalid relative instead of working that much harder to make him well or accepted. They began to ignore him and hide him out of shame. This is exactly what happens in reality when sick people becomes really ill. At the beginning some people starts to feel sorry and they take care of these ill people. Later on, these people become a burden on them. This make the whole Gregor family be against him. Gregor's mother and sister used to clean the room at the beggining. But not at the end. They felt that cleaning out Gregor's room would make him feel happy, or might help him. But they really hurt him. It is painful for someone you loved if you took everything from them. It would make them feel isolated, unwanted and unloved.
Gregor had a crappy, thankless job, and even though it was difficult, he was despised and scrutinized by his coworkers, making the job that much more unpleasant. Gregor was such an isolated and poor person that he cut the picture of the lady with the fur or a magazine to hang on the wall, to remind him of better things. Gregor's metamorphosis into a cockroach is strange but at the same time is reasonable, because insects as beetle, but or cockroaches are associated with old dirty houses, and trash. If Gregor would have been a cat or a dog, his parents would not considered him so disgusting and they would not have rejected him. But in this case, Gregor is a bug and his parents really thought that a giant cockroach is something that must be hidden. This kind of things happens everyday. not the strange thing as transformation into a bug, but the fact that people are not what they seem to be like people who dress or act in certain way. A lot of people are misunderstood and are judged the wrong way.
In spite of all this suffering that Gregor Samsa could not communicate with his family neither to have a normal life, he started to get used to his new enviromnent and his new body. he got used to his food, his living under the couch, climbing in the ceilings, and in certain way he enjoyed those things. In the real world this is the same with a lot people for instance, when a person starts to begin a new life in a different country, like or not, people must get used to new thins, food and lifestyle for their own benefits and try to enjoy as Gregor did.
At the end of the Kafka's story, Gregor Samsa dies and with him dies the huge insect too. But with the end of this transformation starts a new happy one. For instance, Gregor family feels a big sense of relief like if their burden has been lifted off them, and they can start a new life. Grete in the end of the story is a young woman who is willing to strat her career as a musician. All of them are happy, including Gregor himself who stops all this sufferings and rejections from his family.
Samsa could be viewed in modern society as someone who hated his job and everyone around him, but he did not think that the human society was very human at all. Society is a very selfish place, filled with self-centered people, this is how Gregor came to be an insect to his family; Gregor was a big machine and he came to be recognized when neccesity came to the house. This story is very realistic and sad at the same time. It should be applied in society to learn how to recognize when people are worth and appreciate them for what they really are.
Revision: 2011/01/08 - 00:18 - © Mauro Nervi
1. What need a modern reader know of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) – arguably the most famous, also greatest, short story in the history of literary fiction?
2. Of its stature, for example, Elias Canetti wrote that the story was something Kafka “could never surpass, because there is nothing which Metamorphosis could be surpassed by”. As endorsements go, the bar could not be set higher.
3. Kafka’s place in the literary pantheon has been assured for some time, most pleasingly expressed by George Steiner’s suggestion that he is the only author of whom it may be said that he made his own a letter of the alphabet – K.
4. Here, though, is a little novelty: in 2015, Metamorphosis is 100 years old. At least, 1915 is when the story was published, which is to say “finished”; and Kafka, famously, didn’t finish very much.
5. Kafka worked on Metamorphosis through the autumn of 1912 and completed a version on 7 December that year. But negotiations with publishers were complicated, and circumstances – the first world war, among other things – intervened.
6. Finally Metamorphosis was set before readers in October 1915, in the avant-garde monthly Die Weissen Blätter, then put between covers that December.
7. A century on, why does Metamorphosis still attract readers? One reason is that it’s a horror story of sorts. Its premise – a man awakens in the body of an insect – exerts a ghastly fascination beyond anything in even the consummate short works of Chekhov or Joyce or Alice Munro.
8. Another is that it is, amid its pathos, awfully funny. Gregor Samsa wakes to discover he has six legs and a shell, yet for some pages he thinks that what ails him might just be the kind of throat complaint that is “the occupational malady of travellers”. What can you do but laugh?
9. And there’s more. As Gregor struggles to crawl off his bed, a clerk from his company calls at the Samsa apartment. As Vladimir Nabokov commented: “This grim speed in checking a remiss employee has all the qualities of a bad dream.” But it is also farce: a personal embarrassment raised to a debacle by multiple easily shocked persons arriving on the scene to witness it.
10.Metamorphosis exemplifies the world Kafka invented on paper – recognisable but not quite real, precisely detailed and yet dreamlike.
11. We call this world “Kafkaesque”, of course, while keeping mindful of Italo Calvino’s lament that one hears that term “every quarter of an hour, applied indiscriminately”.
12. I’ll venture we mean “Kafkaesque” to denote a sense of suddenly inhabiting a world in which one’s customary habits of thought and behaviour are confounded and made hopeless.
13. To dig a little deeper, the term evokes an individual’s sense of finding himself victimised by large impersonal forces, feeling after a while that he can’t but take it personally – and feeling haunted, too, by the sense that maybe, after all, he deserves it.
14. If you grant the preceding, then Metamorphosis is perhaps the quintessential Kafka story.
15. Given how well the story has aged, it is telling that Kafka at first didn’t wholly delight in his handiwork. Even as he inspected the proofs he was unpersuaded. (“Unreadable ending. Imperfect almost to its very marrow.”)
Kafka's Metamorphosis and its mutations in translation
16. But the very fact that Metamorphosis was read, chuckled over and frowned on while Kafka was alive may bear repeating; for the myth rather persists that Kafka was unknown and unpublished in his lifetime.
17. Though his great fame was posthumous, he did have a reputation to speak of while he was alive. If a minor figure, he nonetheless had a better class of admirer (eg, Robert Musil).
18. In 1915 the dramatist Carl Sternheim, winner of the prestigious Theodor Fontane prize, bestowed his prize money on Kafka as a mark of writer-to-writer respect.
19. (Can you imagine the Man Booker prizewinner of 2015 declaring from the dais that s/he plans to hand over the £50,000 to a rival novelist whose stuff s/he considers so much better?)
20. Legendarily, though, Kafka had no bigger fan than his university friend Max Brod, who decided early on that Kafka was a genius, and duly ended up saving his works from incineration.
21. Kafka’s famous literary death wish, delivered to Brod, was: “Dearest Max, my final request: Everything I leave behind in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters, from others and my own, sketches, and so forth, to be burned completely and unread … ”
22. Brod disobeyed Kafka, claiming that his friend had intimated his wish some years earlier, whereupon Brod had made it clear he would do no such thing. In other words, we may infer that Kafka was playing hard to get.
23. Kafka did, however, stipulate that a few works were to be spared: “The Judgment, The Stoker, Metamorphosis, Penal Colony, Country Doctor, and the short story “A Hunger Artist” … since they do exist, I do not wish to hinder anyone who may want to, from keeping them.” Certainly these are stories one would call keepers.
24. Let’s look again, then, at the setup of Metamorphosis: Gregor Samsa is a travelling salesman in cloth, who works to support his family – mother, father, younger sister – and lives with them in a flat in an apartment house, though frequent business trips mean he is rarely there.
25. Why does Gregor work so hard? Five years ago his father lost a lot of money and Gregor took a job with one of the creditors. His sister Grete was too young to work, his mother too poorly with asthma, his father rather a broken man. Gregor, then, is the man of the house: his wages keep the family. As the story begins he has, for a change, slept overnight in the flat. And then he awakens.
26. Horror, humour, the trappings of the workaday, the surrealism of dreams – all are present from the first sentence, which in German goes like this: “Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt.”
Kafka's great writings may be seen as a sort of imaginative rehearsal for the end of all things
27. No English translation disputes that Gregor wakes from troubled dreams to find himself transformed in his bed. But into what, precisely?
28. The adjective ungeheuren means “huge”, the noun Ungeziefer some form of “creepy-crawly” but also “vermin” – obviously more suggestive of rodents than insects, yet applicable to both, the shared characteristic being pestilent, repugnant qualities.
29. “Some kind of monstrous vermin” is how it was rendered by the story’s first English translator, AL Lloyd. “A gigantic insect” was the reading of Edwin and Willa Muir. “A monstrous cockroach” is how Michael Hofmann phrased it more recently.
30. Nabokov, who taught Kafka’s work with great ardour at Cornell University, was a passionate lepidopterist and put some care into classifying Kafka’s Ungeziefer, noting its “numerous little legs”, brown colouring and convexity of belly and back.
31. In a deduction worthy of Sherlock Holmes, Nabokov also observed that the creature’s use of “strong mandibles” for the purpose of turning a key in a lock while on its hind legs “gives us the length of his body, which is about three feet”. But this is mere dressing on Nabokov’s conclusion: namely that Gregor becomes “a big beetle”.
32. Both Kafka and Brod when discussing the story spoke freely of the “bug” (wanze). But Kafka wished for readers to approach his creation with rather more tact. In his 1915 correspondence with Kurt Wolff he expressed alarm (“Not that, please not that!”) at the thought that the book’s cover might bear a drawing of an insect.
33. It’s not a great stretch to propose that in his concern for how Ungeziefer Gregor was perceived, Kafka was revealing an identification with his protagonist – quite a thing, when you think about it.
34.Metamorphosis is a story in which a man suffers a terrible and inexplicable misfortune, is reduced to an abject and alien state, then is made to suffer doubly by the attitude of his ostensible loved ones, who make clear they would be better off without him – a verdict that he, with a passivity that seems culpable, accepts.
The enduring truth of Kafka’s Metamorphosis | Letters
35. Not for nothing did Saul Friedländer entitle his 2013 study Kafka: Poet of Shame and Guilt.
36. Neurotic misery informed Kafka’s work just as it is the making of many a writer, but in his case the degree to which the pain appears willed – that he felt it could be no other way and probably ought to be so – makes for a significant variation.
37. There’s something a little chilling in the way he could step aside from himself, perceive his own plight, then twist it with finesse into fictional shapes that had the force of parables.
38. To live the writing life, Kafka decided early on, was to be in “the service of the Devil”. He struck this Faustian pact, knowing it was not in his favour (it never is), but that it would suffice. Writing was everything, though it couldn’t be enough, and in consequence he would cut himself off from real intimacy with any other person.
39. Certainly Kafka had what we nowadays call commitment issues with women. The degree to which he was interested in them as sexual partners is the riddle of the sphinx, one we must leave to his biographers, who don’t entirely agree.
40. It’s noteworthy, then, that Metamorphosis has a kinship with other titles in that elite group saved from the flames, Kafka having composed them during an inspired period of months in 1912 when, undoubtedly, a woman was involved.
41. By day, Kafka was an insurance man specialising in workers’ injury claims. If he saw this job as a writer’s wage slavery, nonetheless he did it for years, conscientiously.
42. By 1911 he was working – unfruitfully, he felt – on a novel with an American theme entitled The Man Who Disappeared / Der Verschollene. (It became Amerika.)
43. Worse, during 1911 he was much beset by having agreed to help his father with an interest in an asbestos factory – an investment Kafka had encouraged him to make, resulting in hassles and unhappiness.
44. But in August 1912, at Brod’s place in Prague, Kafka met Felice Bauer. Felice was 24, a cousin of Brod’s brother-in-law, and visiting from Berlin where she worked as a secretary for a firm making Dictaphones. Kafka was instantly drawn to her and began to woo her with a daily torrent of letters.
45. There is, of course, an obvious distancing effect in epistolary courtship, and Kafka could be promiscuous even with those disembodied affections.