Speculative Theories Born of the Act of Grasping at Originality

Essay by footballingcellistHigh School, 10th gradeB+, January 2009

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When reading The Metamorphosis – which surely you have – did you come away with a sense of fulfilled satisfaction, or were you left with your eyebrows furrowed, wondering about the mental health of the author, Franz Kafka? The story seems utterly strange and rather pointless at a glance, but if one looks closely, he can see that there is much more to it if he reads between the lines. By looking at the symbolism in The Metamorphosis, the background of the Franz Kafka, and by utilizing the right to resort to pure speculation, an argument can be made for the representation of both Jesus and Kafka by the primary character, Gregor Samsa, while still fitting with the author’s Jewish beliefs.

So much evidence is presented for the representation of Franz Kafka by Gregor that the chances of it all being coincidental quite simply would flee in terror from an electron.

Take the author’s name, for a start. If one was to assign a pattern to the last names of Gregor Samsa and Franz Kafka, much like the letter patterns of a rhyme scheme, but with differentiation between all other letters and the letter “A”, it would look like this: “C1, A, C2, C1, A”, with “C” representing “consonant”. Secondly, there are many similarities in the lives of the two individuals. They both lived with their familiesBarksdale 2into adulthood, they both worked as insurance salesmen, they worked hard for their families with a sense of “familial obligation, guilt, and duty (p.1064)”, they both felt feelings of alienation (Kafka was a German-speaking Jew in Czechoslovakia, Samsa was a bug) and both died prematurely.

The evidence for the representation of Jesus Christ by Gregor Samsa is much more subtle. There are hints of symbolism in The Metamorphosis that may point toward a religious theme, such as the use of the apple to end life of Gregor, much like the apple of knowledge spelled the end of paradise for Adam and Eve. There are also many occurrences of the numeral three, such as Gregor’s death at three o’clock a.m. during the third month, Gregor’s three other family members, and the grouping of the story into three parts. There is a possibility that this represents the Holy Trinity. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka describes the situation of Gregor’s family members as this: “…it was the commandment of family duty to swallow their disgust and endure him, endure him and nothing more (p.1095).” The word “commandment” is very rarely used outside of biblical context. It is also important to look at the character of Gregor Samsa. He devoted his life to helping the people he cared for, and died so that they could be figuratively reborn. Surely that sounds familiar.

Now, if you have a very basic understanding of the Jewish religion, then this question will surely arise in your mind: “Why would Franz Kafka, being Jewish, create a character to represent both himself and Jesus Christ?” It must be noted that when Gregor Samsa died, that was it for him. He was gone. In the words of the Samsa’s cleaning woman, “…it’s croaked; it’s lying there, dead as a doornail (p.1107)!” If Gregor was toBarksdale 3represent Jesus, then the resurrection is conspicuously absent from this analogy. The ladder of parallels has a rung that is only attached to one side. That is, if the Jesus thatGregor represents is the Jesus from the view of Christianity, which it isn’t. The Jesus that Gregor represents along with Kafka is the Jesus from the Jewish perspective. No resurrection, not the Messiah, not the son of God. Kafka may have created Gregor to represent both himself and Jesus in order to make the point that he believes that Jesus was much like him. They were both just men, both Jewish, both working hard to help the people that they love, and Gregor ties them together in one character.

It is up to you to decide whether you agree, either in whole or in part, with the theories and ideas set forth in this essay. Hopefully you will find that the evidence set forth is sufficient to convince any intelligent being of the roles Gregor Samsa was created to play in The Metamorphosis, and why. It may be also beneficial to pay monetary tribute to the author of this essay for being one of a very limited number of individuals who successfully extracted the Kafka = Gregor = Jesus parallel by reading way too far into the possible symbolism of an old German novella.

Citation: "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, 1915