Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Metamorphosis

I'm sure I read Kafka's The Metamorphosis at school, but I couldn't remember much, so when I noticed it on DailyLit I subscribed.

It's the story of Gregor, a man who one day wakes up to find that he is a giant insect. His first thoughts about this situation relate to work and not being able to show up on time. He works for some very strict people and although he hates it, he does it so that he can support his family who have financial problems. He loses his job quickly of course and the family have to fend for themselves. They take care of Gregor to a certain basic extent - they clean his room and bring him food - but they are disgusted by him and wish he were gone. When he does go, they are relieved that their hardship is over.

There is alot of analysis of this story on the internet, but apprently scholars can't agree on what it really means. I guess what struck me was that Gregor sacrificed his life for his family, to be able to support them, and they didn't really appreciate it. I know that when I'm in situations that seem very hard, I end up wishing I could just give up, even if logically I know I can't. I tend to wish that something would happen to change the situation, something I can't even think of.This is what happened to Gregor, I think. Something happened to get him out of the unsatisfying situation he was in and he could just give up.

I also though a lot about being different and alienated while I was reading this. OK granted, turning into a bug is an extreme example and I'm sure I wouldn't treat Gregor in the same way if I was there, but still... you have to wonder if his family would have taken care of him if he was unable to work for other reasons. He became something different and was no longer needed.

He must have been really lonely too, not to really mind turning into a bug. He didn't seem too concerned with his new state...

I guess the point of my rambling is that I don't really know what I'm talking about. :-) I enjoyed reading Kafka's novella and I can see how it touches on a whole variety of issues, but I don't really see the big picture. I feel better about this knowing that scholars haven't really figured it out either.

Kafka is an interesting person though, Czech but living under German-speaking rule in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and I'd like to read some of this other works.

Challenges: A-Z Challenge, 999 Challenge, Decades Challenge, Jewish Literature (Kafka was Jewish!), Orbis Terrarum, What an Animal

7 comments:

Lezlie said...

I have this one on the radar for this year, too. I'm just a little inimidated by him. I don't know why.

Lezlie

joanna said...

This is an easy one to read - I haven't read the others but I'd think this would be a good one to start with! I'd be curious to see what you make of it Lezlie...

Nymeth said...

I think that's part of the fun of it - that it doesn't mean just one thing and that nobody can agree. This is the only Kafka I've read. I'd love to read The Castle or The Trial one of these days.

joanna said...

Nymeth - The Trial is next on my list, I've been wanting to read it for ages, I think since I read the Jasper Fforde books and there was a reference to it. I hate when I don't get a reference!!!

jenclair said...

I read The Castle years ago and remember nothing. The Metamorphosis, however, I remember well! Hard to forget that kind of creepy transformation.

joanna said...

jenclair - I remembered the transformation itself, just nothing around it. The insect stayed in my mind, oh yes. :-)

Hedgie said...

The Metamorphosis is one of the finest 20th century works dealing with the alienation and dehumanization of the individual in an increasingly materialistic society. Vladimir Nabokov, who was an authority on insects, believed the insect Gregor was transformed into was a dung beetle. It's an interesting point that he is wounded by an apple, the instrument of man's fall from the Garden of Eden.