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Analysis of “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka

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    Metamorphosis is an illustrious short story, which manifests Kafka’s complex character, his beliefs, and real-life dilemmas. It highlights the existentialist credo by elucidating the quandaries faced by an individual in the face of absurdity. Kafka critiques the impersonal and materialistic society around us, which mitigates individualism, restricts freedom, and engenders alienation. A whirlwind of redundancy and absurdity pose Gregor with an identity crisis.

    Initially, his individuality is tethered by social obligations where as in due course, he is socially marginalized by virtue of his outrageous appearance. Either way, he is isolated. By means of this clock, my oral presentation aims to chart Gregor’s progress through life, which essentially follows a circular trajectory. I will begin by explaining some of the key ways in which Kafka portrays non-fictitious concepts with stark clarity… Kafka vividly manifests abstract canons using an array of literary devices. The lack of causality is conspicuous, which symbolizes the superfluity of existence.

    Furthermore, Kafka employs a medley of extended metaphors to assist him with conceptualization; Gregor’s diminutive human room delineates the extent of his freedom, food represents familial relationships and hunger the thirst for social connections. Color imagery is adopted to symbolize the depth of Gregor Samsa’s state of cognizance, while kinesthetic imagery is used as a touchstone to measure the degree of Gregor’s freedom. Owing to his submissiveness, Gregor’s life follows a circular trajectory, which in technical jargon is forced individualism.

    Also circular motion lacks a decisive direction, which suggests that Samsa is unable to achieve self-actualization. Hence to represent such characteristics, the diction employed connotes redundancy and compliancy. Other than Kafka’s nonchalant tone, the text’s innate irony is rather gripping; even though Samsa surpasses a monumental metamorphosis, in actuality, his life returns to status quo. Sartre embodied the essence of existentialism where “existence precedes essence. ” Originally, Gregor was an impotent travelling salesman whose worth was calculated in fiscal terms.

    Fettered by familial obligations, his identity was vanquished, which ensnared him into a vicious cycle of submissiveness; he even says, “I am in a jam, but I will work myself out of it. ” Gregor possessed locomotive freedom, but lacked individualistic leeway. By six o’clock, Gregor has transformed into a giant insect; “When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in bed. ” The stark absence of exclamation marks and hyperboles disconcerts the reader who is informed about Gregor’s acquiescence of life’s inanity.

    At this stage, Gregor is in a nebula; from half past six to quarter to seven, he ruminates about futile issues while planning his next step. The questions that perturb him are recurrent and “baseless”, illuminating his indecisive nature; he oscillates from complaining about his grueling occupation that has “no continuity, and no affection” to contemplating about how he must get out of bed; “Whatever I do, I mustn’t loaf around in bed. ” Words such as “dense, morning fog” irradiate Gregor’s obscure state of realization.

    Furthermore, Gregor’s physical struggles illuminate his emotional weariness; Gregor was unable to control his numerous, feeble legs and saw “no possibility of brining any order or calm to their randomness,” and “however vigorously he flung himself to his right he kept rocking on to his back. ” Gregor’s continual efforts are ineffectual. Kafka’s use of symbolism where physical mastery corresponds to Gregor’s freedom of choice manifests Kafka’s literary wit and ability to represent a metaphysical change in concrete terms, which substantiates its gradual occurrence.

    Ironically, the story’s first real climactic scene commences when the Chief Clerk visits Gregor’s residence to enquire about his absence (7:10 am). In “fits of panic suffocation”, Gregor hurries into a series of circumlocutions, which due to their incomprehensibility, come to no avail; “No pleas on Gregor’s part were any use, no please were even understood. ” Through Gregor’s assertions and complaints, the reader traces Gregor’s opinions. However the failure to propound them liquidates his quintessence.

    Furthermore, Gregor’s anxieties drove him, not his will power; “And more on account of the excitement that came over Gregor with these reflections, than as the result of any proper decision on his part, he powerfully swung himself right out of bed. ” The statement, “You’ve barricaded yourself into your room” affirm Gregor’s role in sidelining himself, who is conditioned to work according to “injunctions” which steer him into the “human ambit”. As the text unravels, the reader notices an improvement in Gregor’s physical status: “improvement in his condition was imminent. However, unfortunately such a projection is merely a chimera. In the description of Mr. Samsa’s assault on his son, Kafka figuratively represents the grim reality of Gregor Samsa’s life; Samsa finally realized that he had “no alternative, because he noticed to his consternation that in his reversing he was unable to keep to a given coarse and so he started as quickly as possible, but in effect only very slowly, to turn around. ” Gregor’s father even tried and subsequently succeeded to coerce Gregor onto this rotund path.

    Samsa’s belief that he has “no alternative” is contradictory to Kafka’s beliefs; Gregor could repudiate his lifestyle, but chose not to and so let him-self be ushered into a circular path. For Kafka, freedom is omni-present, and the individual defines his/her freedom by the decisions he or she makes. Ultimately, Gregor’s father gives him a “a truly liberating kick. ” The use of the words, “truly liberating kick” in the context of the story is satirical which highlights the hopelessness of Samsa’s situation- he is being forced to transcend a circular trajectory.

    Subsequently, Gregor’s realization regarding his ramshackle social condition gradually increases, which is perceptible through the effective use of colour imagery, and extended metaphors related to food, and space. Gregor woke up at dusk from a “heavy comatose sleep. ” The adjective “comatose” connotes lethargy, and a forlorn state of unconsciousness; Gregor still resides in oblivion. Gregor “began to understand the functioning of his feelers,”; this statement implies his superficial understanding of his functional value in society; a financial buffer.

    Kafka makes metaphorical references to food; like familial relationships, food is a form of sustenance, which endows us with feelings of gratification amidst the impersonal social setting of the world. Hence, hunger would logically mean an absence of social connections in a frigid world. By means of extended metaphors, Kafka depiction of the story’s rudimentary theme is set in a broader context, which is the individual’s thirst for social connections and universal truths in an absurd, illusory world. Furthermore, (nighttime), Kafka uses colour imagery to symbolize Gregor’s state of cognizance, which s still poor; “staring into the blackness, where Gregor lay, it was dark. ” Even so, Gregor possessed an inkling of what his future had in store for him; “But what if all peace, all prosperity, all contentment, were to come to a sudden and terrible end? ” This question reveals Kafka’s intention of conveying post-modern malaise in a turbulent world. Moreover, when Gregor concealed his identity, “people had tried to come in and see him, but now that he had opened the door himself” and revealed streaks of his individualism “no visitors came” External Conflict + his appearance wasn’t “universally sanctioned”.

    With time, Gregor felt more estranged and was approaching the point where his circuitous journey started. The words “grave invalid” explicitly state Gregor’s spurious existence, and the pun on grave, through the adoption of dark humour, suggests that Gregor is already a dead man; the absence of an identity renders him dead. The half-rotten, left over assortment of foods Gregor’s sister brings along with her symbolizes besmirched relationships, beset with decay.

    References to suffocation such as “scarcely able to breathe in his little space,” and “fits of panic suffocation,” represent Gregor’s yearning to be emancipated from the manacles of society. Gregor was soon becoming an inconvenience, which was bound to make his family apoplectic and ostracize him even further. Now that Mr. Samsa had transferred all the fortunes to his wife and daughter and Gregor’s earned “lump sum” had been spent, Gregor’s fiscal worth had too been dissolved. Diction – incarceration. Colour imagery has again been employed to mark Gregor’s state of recognition; the “grey sky merged indistinguishably with grey earth. “Gregor was able to see everything more acutely. ” (Merging of reality + fantasy). A month later, Gregor’s corporeal motion increases, however his freedom is still restricted by the peripheries of his room. More so, he bluntly obfuscates his existence by pulling a sheet over his body so as to cause his sister less discomfort; he still lives for others, not for himself. References to his escalating physical control indicate the growing latitude proffered to him; he may engage himself in free fall, however such liberty, is short-lived as will be seen later.

    In figurative terms, the clearing out of Gregor’s room symbolizes the remnants of his human existence being jettisoned. “ Was it really his wish to have his cosy room, comfortably furnished with old heirlooms, transformed into a sort of cave, merely so that he would be able to crawl around in it freely, without hindrance in any direction- even at the expense of rapidly and utterly forgetting his human past? “ The truth in the matter is that it didn’t make much of a difference– currently his locomotive powers are restricted where previously he was metaphysically incarcerated.

    Perhaps what’s even more perturbing is Gregor’s sudden change in personality; adjectives such as “vindictive”, and “aggressive” and verbs such as “erupted forth” display this newfound truculence. In the end, however, this change bore no fruit. When Gregor’s father assaults him for the second time, Kafka paints a vivid description of the thespian scene, which crudely represents the way Gregor Samsa’s life follows a circular trajectory; “In this way they circled the room several times, without anything decisive taking place,” and “there was no sense in keeping moving. EXPLAIN. Eventually, he was “nailed to the spot, in complete disorientation. ” Back to square one, disoriented- helpless + immobile – after each assault, more clarity + resolve. 2 months later, the status of Gregor is such that he has become an “old invalid” who is merely being tolerated, and whose freedom is still restricted – the only difference, is however, in his now complete realization and change in temperament. Despite his current and loathsome form, Gregor remained a member of the family, and must not be treated like an enemy, but as someone whom – all revulsion to the contrary- family duty compelled one to choke down, and who must be tolerated, simply tolerated. ”

    The familial necessity to treat Gregor with civility is merely because Gregor is still a member of the family. However, he was already being treated as a foe (use of sarcasm), treated with utmost revulsion. The words “choke down” connote unnatural repression where as the repetition of the world “tolerated” reaffirm the bigotry towards Samsa. Lying in the darkened room, invisible from the living room” – he was virtually non-existent to his family. The open door was a titillation, a mirage as his freedom was still limited. The words “poky hotel room” bear a tone of insouciance – Gregor no longer possess a sense of belonging to this disappearing household – isolated in the confinements of a hotel room. “The household seemed to shrink” – warmth + togetherness was being eroded. Epiphany – “Who in this exhausted and overworked family had the time to pay any more attention to Gregor than was absolutely necessary? The color white has been mentioned for the first time – self-awareness is complete. Change in disposition: “And then he wasn’t in the mood to worry about family, but instead was filled with rage at how they neglected him…” + no longer wanted food. His reality being stated more explicitly – no longer felt that desire for compassion when he new it didn’t exist and was filled with disgruntlement. Where previously Gregor’s room was being emptied out, now it was being cluttered up not with furnishings, but with rubbish (neglected – filth).

    His room was now effectively tantamount to a dust-bin- his worth was reduced to that of dirt. “The way those tenants fill their boots, while I’m left to starve! ” Post Christmas, Gregor is objectified – he comes an “it”. “I don’t want to speak the name of my brother within hearing of that monster, and so I will merely say: we have to get rid of it. We did as much as humanly possible to try and look after it and tolerate it. “ “Permanent torture at home. ” Instead of his sister – the sister -Immobile – legs become frail again – emotional stress – humanity – for family – back to square one -Significance of shift in seasons.

    To conclude, Gregor’s life returns to status quo; even though he experiences positive changes in his disposition, and is now aware of his dismal condition, he still resides in an abyss of alienation. Previously, Samsa was alienated metaphysically, however towards the end, he is physically marginalized. Kafka’s literary flair adds multiple levels of meaning to a story, which uses fairly simple language. The reader is able to effectively understand the gravity of Gregor’s situation; ultimately he is neglected, negated, and isolated just as he had been before.

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    Analysis of “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. (2017, Mar 12). Retrieved from

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