Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis": A Report

Essay by esato19College, UndergraduateA+, December 2002

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Given a copy of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, interpretation proves to be a challenge because his profound use of language establishes symbolic significance that is tough to decipher. "The Metamorphosis can be seen as an intensely introspective work, relating to itself and providing Gregor Samsa as a concrete metaphor for metaphor itself" (Way 267). Kafka's pessimistic view on society and the struggle to find one's identity are overriding topics in his work. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka provides insight into society and its mechanism that reveals humanity's intolerance to change and difference.

Society is "an association of institutions held together by a set of artificial values" ("Society" 629). These artificial values, often called "truths," provide the moral basis of society. Conformity leads to the norm whereas deviation from the norm leads to opposition. The deviant oftentimes defines the norm because the norm is established with reference to the deviant. For example, the protagonist in "The Metamorphosis," Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one morning transformed into a beetle, has "entered the world of the despised" (Nietzsche).

His family and society label him as a deviant because of his physical transformation. As a result, Gregor is psychologically affected and further distances himself from the family social circle. This conventional society distances Gregor from existence in his family.

Humanity looks down upon sudden changes or differences in society. This creates discrimination, which, in turn, creates hostility. Gregor's ghastly physical change disgusts his family and his lack of communication with them causes greater disturbance in their relationship. As a bug, he cannot boast his opinions and emotions freely, since his voice is inaudible to humans. Kafka uses the boarders to develop the story's theme of society's small-mindedness to variation. The boarders are also a tool that helps Gregor express himself (Way 278). Observing the...