The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov are both insightful and unique commentaries on human nature. Though the works are from entirely different times and cultures, both function to investigate and express the authors’ cynicism of social convention. The Metamorphosis gives a vivid account of the repression suffered by its protagonist, while A Hero of Our Time offers a first hand look inside the mind of the oppressor himself.
Kafka and Lermontov use point of view to illicit strong emotions from the reader in order to underscore man’s inherent need to control and manipulate others.Kafka uses a third person limited point of view to create sympathy for the protagonist by showing the effect the controlling and repressive disposition of his family has on him. Throughout the entire text, the narration is extremely detached, but as the novella progresses it shows more insight into the devastating effects the actions of Gregor’s family are having on him. Initially, the prose is alarmingly dispassionate, creating shock within the reader.
Gregor has turned into a “monstrous vermin,” and yet the narrator shows no emotional or vivid response from Gregor at all (Kafka 3).The Marks 0250-063 2 description of the metamorphosis is scientific and very factual in order to create an extremely unsettling tone. The narration uses vivid descriptions of Gregor’s body and movements as well as a direct lack of reaction from Gregor. An example of this can be seen when Gregor, upon realizing what had happened to him, merely tries to go back to bed and can’t, not because he is at all emotionally affected by being turned into an enormous bug, but because he is used to sleeping on the other side of his body and “in his present state could not get into that position” (Kafka 3).
Through the unsettling voice of the narrator, the reader feels sympathy for Gregor because it seems as though he is incapable of having a human response to the situation. As the plot unfolds, the narrator reveals more and more about Gregor’s internal reaction to his metamorphosis. The effect created through only letting the reader see Gregor’s thoughts is to show the truly cruel nature of his family and the true effect it has on him. This can be seen in comparing the way the narration describes Gregor’s emergences.
The first time Gregor escapes from his room, the narration is scientific in nature, giving all of the details about what actually happened. More insight into Gregor’s psyche can be seen through analyzing the juxtaposition between this account of Gregor’s first emergence and the narration of his last. The last time Gregor leaves his room, the narration is less detached and more expressive; it reveals that Gregor thought “now maybe they’ll let me turn around” in order to outline Gregor’s good intentions and underscore the cruel and unfair way in which he is treated(53).Kafka especially utilizes point of view to underscore the effect of Grete’s transformation on Gregor.
The narration pays much more attention to the thoughts of Gregor in order to highlight the controlling and manipulative way in which Marks 0250-063 3 she starts to treat him. Initially, Grete tries to help Gregor, by trying to find out what food he will eat. She soon takes on the full role of caretaker, because she has nothing else to do besides “get her mother one day when her father [is] out” (Kafka 32). However, Grete becomes less concerned with Gregor’s wellbeing and more concerned about her being in control of the situation.
For example, Grete notices that Gregor has been crawling around more and decides that his furniture should be removed in order to give him more crawling room. Even though her mother has an extremely good argument against removing Gregor’s furniture, Grete sticks with hers because she had become the expert “whenever Gregor’s affairs were being discussed” (Kafka 34). This is the first time in the text where Grete puts her essential need to control over the potential wellbeing of her brother; however, as the novella progresses there are much more severe cases.These cases are highlighted through the distinct outline of Gregor’s reactions to them through the narration.
The best example of this is Grete’s passion for being the care taker of Gregor’s room. Although she does a horrible job, leaving “streaks of dirt…
along the walls,” she protests that the responsibility remains hers. After her mother actually gives Gregor’s room a proper cleaning, she is insulted and “[bursts] out into a fit of crying” (Kafka 44). Here, it is obvious that the description of Gregor’s situation is offered strictly from a point of view affected only by Gregor’s emotions.At no point is there this sort of insight into the feelings of the family.
By the end of the text, instead of referring to things in a detached manner, the narrator is clearly outlining Gregor’s “miserable treatment” in order to create sympathy for him and highlight the degree of degradation and cruelty exhibited by his family (Kafka 43). Marks 0250-063 4 Unlike Kafka, Lermontov uses two different first person narrators to give an honest first person account of the manipulative nature of the protagonist, Pechorin, and also outline the effect of this characteristic on other characters in the novel.This specific utilization of multiple points of view not only creates sympathy for the victims of Pechorin’s thirst for control, but it also elicits anger through revealing the intentional nature of Perchorin’s manipulation of others. In the first two sections of the novel, Lermontov utilizes the traveling narrator to develop an initial sketch of Pechorin’s character and also show the effect of Pechorin’s cruelty on Maxim Maximych.
In “Bela,” the traveling salesman encounters Maxim, who tells him the story of Bela.This narration functions mainly to create sympathy for the victims of Pechorin’s actions. Maxim describes how Pechorin treats Bela “coldly now and rarely made a fuss of her” and describes the pain Bela feels because of it (Lermontov 53). He tells of her worries when he goes out hunting, the way Pechorin has changed towards her, and explained that “she [has] lost the sparkle in her big eyes” (Lermontov 53).
In the second section, the narration shifts from being merely a story from another character and is now a first hand account of Pechorin’s treatment of others.The traveling narrator witnesses Pechorin treating Maxim coldly and makes comments on how sad it is to “see a…
man’s fondest hopes and dreams shattered” when Maxim sees Pechorin’s actions “for what they are” (Lermontov 73). The sympathy created for the victims of Pechorin’s manipulative actions through this type of narration is very similar to that created for Gregor in The Metamorphosis, because it directly outlines its effects on them. After Lermontov has completely outlined the effect of Pechorin’s actions on others, he gives a first personMarks 0250-063 5 account of his thought processes by including Pechorin’s personal journals. In these journals it is seen that not only are his actions and their effects intentional, but that his “chief delight” and the goal of these actions is “dominating those around” him (Lermontov 127).
Having access to Pechorin’s analysis of his own actions adds a whole other dimension to this novel’s statement about social convention. Instead of outlining a imply cruel character, Lermontov presents the reader with a complex and intelligent character who is “possessed by that…
urge to destroy another’s fond illusions” (Lermontov 126).Pechorin admits that he receives pleasure out of controlling and manipulating the feelings of other people various times within his journals. When he is questioning why it is that he is trying to win Princess Mary’s heart when he has no intention of doing anything with it, he admits that there is endless pleasure in “taking possession of a young, fresh blossomed heart” (Lermontov 126).This type of analysis is what clearly outlines the nature of Pechorin’s character.
Instead of being outlined as a character who simply hurts other people, as he is in the first two sections of the novel, he is given a whole new layer of intelligence and intentionality. The sole function of this is to outline his need to control and utilize the feelings of others in order to feel powerful. The fact that the reader hears it straight from Pechorin elicits anger at his malicious actions and thoughts.Pechorin admits that tt is inspiring in another person “suffering or joy, having no right to do so” that keeps his ego and his pride intact.
The reader is given this insight into why he does what he does in order to instill in them a large disapproval and even anger at Pechorin. Lermontov uses this expression of Pechorin’s character and Marks 0250-063 6 the vivid description of his actions on the other characters to develop his thematic concepts about the inherently manipulative and controlling nature of humanity.Both of these works use point of view as a vehicle to create reactions from the reader in order to express similar cynicisms about human nature. Through specific narrative inclinations, the authors create sympathy for characters that are the victims of repression and manipulation.
Through point of view, vivid descriptions of Pechorin’s analysis of his own actions and Gregor’s feelings about the treatment he receives from his family throughout his metamorphosis are expressed in order to outline humanity as having an intrinsic need of power and control over others.