“Metamorphosis”¯ is one of the horrible works in the world literature and the most famous story by Franz Kafka.
From the very beginning of the story we expect that the main conflict will be connected with metamorphosis that happen with the heroes, and this expectation is fully justified: “waking up one morning after a restless sleep, Gregor Samsa discovered that he turned into a horrible insect in his bed”¯. This fantastic change in the appearance of the main character is just an artistic device, which provides the backdrop for developing other artistic metamorphosis, but not so much with Gregor, but rather with his surrounding, closest people and outside world.
Turned into a big terrible insect Gregor Samsa retains the soul of man, who needed the support and understanding. Ā But he doesn’t receive it even from the nearest people – parents and sister. All his attempts to contact with them are met only with fear, loathing, disgust and even aggression, although the household realize that they face not just a stupid bug, but their son and brother, who has changed only in appearance. Even before the transformation Gregor’s family has been warm and understanding, though Gregor has been the only person who earned money. I think that turning into a miserable insect is a logical extension of his unconscious dependency and convict existence as a human.
While reading the story, you understand that under the outer shell of the beetle, kind and sensitive heart, pure and understanding soul is hidden. Understanding the feelings that he arouses, Gregor tries to help his family the way he can, at least not to go out the room. But the behavior and attitude of family become more and more offensive, abusive, cruel. It creates the feeling that these people also have transformed.
We can also see some unusual features of symbolism in the story. Metamorphoses which happen to the main character and his family are reflected in the changing of Gregor’s room as a symbol of his inner world and his family attitude. Thus, at the beginning of the story we see well-furnished, but gradually all precious things are taken away despite his protests. At the end there is a dirty, inconvenient den, dump with useless items.
Tragic Kafka mentality is reflected in the hero’s death, which occurs to a greater extent because of the understanding uselessness and loneliness of such life, understanding that he is only a burden and hindrance for his family. Hostile world doesn’t give a chance to bug-man, but the worst thing is that his nearest people are deprived of the human heart and soul, and their usual decent shape is just a mask. It turns out that the main character, though losing the human form, remains to be human inside. And his relatives, though they look like people, in their hearts they are just insects.
According to the story the way you look is the way you are treated by all people, even by the family. The one who only yesterday was loved by his father, became the target of sophisticated bullying. Physical suffering, described by Kafka, is nothing comparing to the soul pain.
Even worse than that is that the hero of the story takes this attitude as it should be like that. He agrees that it was his fault that he had lost his human face. Almost protocol precision with which Kafka describes a scene of death is more shocking than the volumes of high and lofty words: “Gregor squeezed into the door. One side of his body stood up, he went sideways in the aisle, one of his side was completely covered with wounds, ugly stains appeared on the white door”¯. The only emotional touch here is the epithet “ugly”¯.
Death becomes a deliverance for everybody. The family is happy. “Well, – said Mr. Samsa – now we can thank God.”¯
Indifference, disgust repulsion of all who is not like the crowd, who is not like everyone else, replete peace – that is the ideal of happiness for Samsa family.
Kafka grotesquely exaggerated the details, found a very strong symbol for the “others”¯. We can easily find parallels in reality for such metamorphosis and the relationship to people, unlike the others. You can be discriminated for anything: color of your skin, nationality, native language, attitudes, non-standard behavior, original art, religion”¦ Anything from this list can be enough for the crowd to deny you the right to remain human”¦
The story is about the tragedy of a lonely, deserted “little”¯ man that feels guilty, his absurd and senseless fate. Kafka adds to fantastic picture lots of small realistic details, transforming it into grotesque. The end of theĀ story, in which, without looking at the senseless vagaries of fate, the author finds support and vital foundation in youth and hope of Gregor’s sister.
This story helped me to think not only about the tragedy of Gregor Zamzam, but in a different way to look at my relationship with others, to rethink many of their actions.