The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, published in 1912, is a book that seems to defy deep meaning, or perhaps it just shouts out that it must have some deep, deep, meaning, to justify having been written? Knowing something about the author and attempting to understand him may be a way to approach the book.

Franz Kafka’s writings inspired the word, “Kafkaesque”, which by definition is the “characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Kafka’s fictional world.”

(“the blend of absurd, surreal and mundane which gave rise to the adjective "kafkaesque)

He was Jewish living in Czech Prague, surrounded with anti-Semitic pressures, and working each day failing in his profession in the shadow of a father figure who was a successful business man. It was the world around him that lead to his destruction.

We see Kafka in this book as the character, Gregor Samsa, who lives with his parents and sister, and works as a traveling salesman. One day he comes home from work, goes to bed, and wakes up as a giant disgusting ugly bug who just to look at is a puke-inducing experience. 

He sees what he has become and then thinks of his past miserable life. His first thought is to realizes he has overslept and he knows his boss never accepts his excuses. His mother knocks on the bedroom door and is concerned because he will be late for work but when he tries to answer his voice is very weak. Then his sister, who has been and continues to be a back stabber, whispers through the door and begs him to open it, but the office manager shows up to check on him. He tries to get out of bed by rocking back and forth but his body falls to the floor. 

The family just accepts what has happened and he lives in his room being fed from a saucer each day. He decides he likes his new body and learns how to crawl on the walls and ceiling. Without Gregor’s income as a salesman, the family must take in some boarders. After an argument with his father Gregor returns to his room and dies. The reasons for the death are unclear. The family comes to feel it was best.

Quotes from The Metamrphosis

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” 

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” 

“Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to the unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.” 

“the blend of absurd, surreal and mundane which gave rise to the adjective "kafkaesque” 

“Calm —indeed the calmest— reflection might be better than the most confused decisions”