Joshua Butler Professor Scott English 102 27 July 2011 Essay # 2 Willa Cather’s, “Paul’s Case” and Frank Kafka’s, “Metamorphosis” are short stories written in the early twentieth century, merely ten years apart. When comparing and contrasting these short stories, the reader finds that both stories share a similar point of view and the recurring themes of alienation and money run throughout these works. Both “Paul’s Case” and “The Metamorphosis” are written in third person with a very restricted point of view.
The point of view in Cather’s work is limited to just that of Paul which changes early on and becomes omniscient. Kafka chose to keep his work in the point of view of Gregor, the protagonist, which becomes omniscient at the end of the story once he has died. Cather’s and Kafka’s works share a common theme that creates a powerful message to their readers. Alienation is the theme that runs throughout both of these short stories.
Paul is emotionally alienated from his family and peers, which may have led to his eventual suicide.
Paul loathes his life on Cordelia Street where, according to him, the people look like their homes, ordinary and middle class. His contempt is demonstrated in his lack of concern for his education, his teachers, fellow students and his home life. He steals money and runs away to New York City. His behavior is typical of a person who has a psychological disorder and/or inferiority complex, and often attempts to compensate this frailty by being rude and aggressive toward others. People with this ailment often are loners and avoid situations where they may feel humiliated.
Paul submerges himself in the arts observing those who participate, and this unhealthy escape eventually leads to his demise. Gregor is also alienated both emotionally and physically after his transformation into a beetle. He at one point refers to this change as his “imprisonment. ” After his metamorphous, Gregor is no longer human, and, therefore, is literally separated from the human race. In the story, he stays in his room the majority of the time with his door closed and has little interaction with the outside world.
Even when he has visitors, he remains alone by isolating himself even more. His sister, Grete, spends just a few minutes in the room with him to bring him food and clean, but Gregor is hiding under a couch. The statement, “…although he felt a strong urge to shoot out from beneath the sofa, throw himself at her feet, and beg her for something to eat” gives evidence to his deep isolation. Gregor is unable to speak after his metamorphosis or at least his family cannot understand him. The loss of communication brings him even further away from his family.
Another common theme in both short stories appears to be the value of money. Both Cather and Kafka feel that one’s economic situation plays an important role is our lives. Paul is obsessed with money, and believes that being wealthy will solve all of his problems. He believes the reason he has such simple clothes, a small house, and boring peers is because he was born into an impoverished life without money. He feels that he deserves money but doesn’t want to work for it. He wants to get rich and get there quickly.
He dislikes the fact that people he knows have to work paycheck to paycheck and save to get by and get ahead. He feels that he was born into the wrong family, and as a result he steals one thousand dollars so he may pursue his desired lifestyle. Paul has an exaggerated importance of money. He envies the people who go to the theater, stay in lavish hotels, travel the Mediterranean by yacht and have palaces in Venice. While in New York, Paul claims, “he knew now, more than ever, that money was everything; the wall that stood between all that he loathed and all that he wanted. This statement shows that Paul believed that once he had money in his pocket, his life was more lavish and therefore, he was complete. Money is a motif in “The Metamorphosis. ” Gregor resents having to support his family due to the amount of debt they have incurred. He hates his job as a traveling salesman which he deems to be meaningless and contributing to the isolation from his family because he is never home. Ironically, once Gregor becomes a beetle, he becomes a parasite of sorts and needs to depend on his family for his basic needs.
Prior to him becoming an insect, he was the only family member who worked. Once he no longer could support his family, his father, mother and sister began working. The family’s jobs are described when the narrator states, “They did everything that the world demanded of poor people-his father fetched breakfast for the junior bank clerks; his mother dedicated herself to making underwear for strangers; his sister ran back and forth behind the counter at the beck and call of customers-but they could do no more than that. The Samsa family seems to have taken advantage of Gregor when he was human. His parents and sister were forced to find jobs now that Gregor is a beetle and is unable to work. Both “Paul’s Case” and “Metamorphosis” are tragic stories about young men who lose their lives in the end. Their alienation, both real and imagined, is the ultimate cause of their deaths. Cather and Kafka are making similar statements about the importance of having healthy family relationships and how easily these relationships can be lost through alienation of family and society.
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