To review The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is to peep into a dark world where human sub-consciousness manifests itself as a being. In The Metamorphosis, that being looks like an ugly vermin. Through a bizarre-dreamlike, heartbreaking story of Gregor Samsa, Kafka conjures the real horrors of a life inflicted with pain, poverty, guilt, and deep hunger for love. Through this book review, I have tried to understand what makes The Metamorphosis by Kafka popular and timeless even today.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – Plot
One fine morning, Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman, wakes up to find himself transformed as a giant bug. While his body has weirdly gone through the transformation, his mind and its fears remain the same. The human spirit trapped in the body of an insect drives the story forward depicting Gregor’s struggles of coping with this transformation. The author gives neither the cause of his changed appearance nor does it care to establish the omniscience of a world outside Gregor’s room. Incapacitated Gregor now has all the time in the world to reflect on his monotonous life devoid of passion, creativity, and meaning. Exerting pressure on an already financially stressed family, Gregor suffers shame and guilt but hopes for the transformation to be temporary and looks forward to regaining his human shape. Meanwhile, his family confronts the crisis with a cold heart except for his sister Grete who chooses to look after her brother. As his condition gains permanence, life in a room becomes foreign and harsh for him. The metamorphosis makes Gregor prone to injuries resulting from an unaccustomed body engaging with an environment that is hostile to a creature like him. The plot climaxes, witnessing Gregor’s father repulsed by his monstrous appearance, unleashing fury on him. Wounded Gregor falls into a deep depression because of the neglect by his family members including Grete who has become indifferent to him in the wake of a tiresome routine. The story ends when Gregor stops eating and succumbs to his fate and dies soon thereafter. Gregor’s family moves to a new apartment with Grete who has now grown into a beautiful young woman.
Understanding The Metamorphosis
Published in 1915, The Metamorphosis continues to be Franz Kafka’s most cherished and celebrated work. Simple in its outline and timeless in its appeal to lay bare the dark inner world of human subconsciousness, The Metamorphosis arrived in the literature world as its own expression. (Though Kafka didn’t survive or wish to see it becoming a cult.) The book serves as a classical analysis of an overlapped territory between a literary piece and its author. Kafka’s signatory style of inserting surrealistic elements in a story, hints of a writing technique developed under the impounding nature of a reality enforced by authoritative figures in his life. The book draws similarities from his other works in terms of characters facing existential crisis, deep guilt or alienation from a world incomprehensible to their ill-suited creative faculties. The Metamorphosis can be seen as a pure expression of Gregor’s inability or Kafka’s (like I said people read The Metamorphosis and study Kafka) to navigate through a life marked by external circumstances too powerful to mount. The Metamorphosis examines this dichotomy to the bone, separating outer world from the inner, body from the mind, by blending surrealistic tools with allegorical and symbolic ones. Even so the room that occurs as a recurring essential in Kafka’s stories is yet another creative outlet that the author retains to keep this distinction alive.
Gregor’s metamorphosis presenting itself as a vermin, reflects the author’s deepest level of complexions about his body. To utilize guilt and shame encapsulating the entire human kind and to portray it as a creature, makes The Metamorphosis unique as it was perhaps the first-of-its-kind experiment in the literature world. While Kafka’s writing style remains simple, it was his craft interplaying reality with fantasy that established Kafka as one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century. The Metamorphosis today exists as an indispensable literary piece for both writers and readers, allowing for a psychoanalytical reading of author and his interpretation of life around him and its impact on his works. Moreover, the reason that makes The Metamorphosis popular and relevant, is its ability to ignite a conversation among literary critics and intellectuals alike as it carves out an ecosystem with a narrative thrusting a creative individual to function within the overwhelming man-made constructs of capitalism.
If you are looking for a book exploring absurdism or surrealism through a story set in a much practical, tangible world, The Metamorphosis will not disappoint you. Though the processing of Kafka’s works is usually slow for a reader unseasoned or uninfluenced from the populist interpretations. For others who are familiar with his works or similar writing styles, it will come across as a rather simple but sufficient narrative and is expected to work on different levels. The book makes for an easy and interesting read touching complex issues and at the same time, works as a case study about how to approach it as a literature student. The Metamorphosis remains one of my favorites to this day!