“A picture of my existence... would show a useless wooden stake covered in snow.. stuck loosely at a slant in the ground in a ploughed field on the edge of a vast open plain on a dark winter night.”
Sunday, March 26, 2017
The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka
Metamorphosis is a novella published by Franz Kafka in 1915. It is one of the most pioneering works of Kafka and has been regarded as the most influential literature of the 19th century. The story is allegorical in nature and deals mostly with one’s purpose of existence and to a great extend the part played by money in the society.
Gregor Samsa the protagonist is a traveling salesman who finds it very difficult to make the ends meet. He is the only earning member of the family. He decides to continue the job which he dislikes in order to support his family. One day he is a little tired from work and sleeps early in the night. He wakes up to the sound of rain hitting his window pane after the troubled night only to discover that he has been transformed/metamorphosed into a monstrous cockroach. He later discovers that his voice also has been transformed. In spite of his physical changes, his mind works like that of a human being. So instead of getting worried about his recent change into an insect he keeps calm and spends time in his bed reflecting on his life- his constant train journeys, irregular bad meals and meeting new people all the time being not able to develop any continuing relationships.
As the story unfolds, life sets on a different plain for George. His family members and the clerk who comes to ascertain his absence from work were shocked to see the change in Gregor who after so much struggle managed to unlock the door with his mouth harming himself in the struggle. His father weeps. But he forces Gregor back into his room. Gregor's sister is the only person who is a bit compassionate to his present state. He is isolated from the family and his sister serves him stale food which Gregor devours with taste. Later he contemplates and observes his family through a hole in the door.
His immediate family is not really disturbed by the tragic situation which Gregor has fallen into but they are more concerned with their own existence as Gregor was the only breadwinner of the family. His sister and father in the meanwhile take up jobs and they rent the house to three people. The story takes a turn when one day the guests who rented their house wanted Gregor’s sister to play the violin. They did not seem to enjoy the music much and started insulting his sister to which Gregor reacts and the guests seeing Gregor left the house. His father tries to scare him with a stick. Gregor understood his situation and he headed back into his own room and eventually dies.
To the family, the death of Gregor was a non-event. They looked upon the situation as if an insect had died and not Gregor. Unburdened of Gregor, relief and hope springs up in the family. No one in the story wonders how a healthy human being could turn into a bug. The story has a surreal element, which is a unique feature that distinguishes it from other stories. The story ends by confronting us with a question- do we really love people who change in ways we are not comfortable with? It comes with the issues we face even today and that way Kafka’s prophecies has an emphasis centuries later. Kafka in this story beautifully blends magic with realism. There is a room for thought for the reader in almost every sentence in the story. The helplessness we feel when we are rejected by the ones we love, the reluctance to embrace incongruity all are depicted beautifully in the story. The story is one of the unique and overpoweringly outlandish works I have ever read.
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