By Gizele Touré
*This analysis contains spoilers.
I’ve just finished my long overdue reading of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Although I can’t say it’s one of my favorite books, I still have many great things to say about it.
I personally find that Kafka’s work is very rich and interesting. The topics he chooses to write about are often ones that people tend to shy away from, such as anxiety, alienation, and weird/absurd situations. Kafka’s way of portraying such complex themes through such a surreal way of writing is very impressive.
This book in particular follows the existential crisis of the main character, Gregor Samsa. We follow as the metaphorical representation of an insect takes on his form in real life through his interactions with his family and job–that is, Gregor is transformed into an insect. Throughout the novel, Gregor is basically forced to watch as his family members, who once depended on him for everything, regain control over their lives by realizing they no longer need him. It is through this experience that Gregor realizes that his entire existence is insignificant.
Some of my biggest takeaways from this book were the very consistent themes of longing for acceptance, feeling/being burdensome, and loathing, which can ultimately make someone feel completely inhuman. This is especially true in Gregor’s case, as the people around him go out of their way to ignore and deny him of all of the emotions and things that make him human. The unsettling physical transformation itself also portrays self-disgust and insecurity literally. However, the fact that Gregor has turned into an insect yet is still able to feel such human desires and emotions is what interests me the most. It seems that after Gregor has turned into a bug, he is able to experience a deeper sense of humanity than he ever did when he was a traveling salesman for people.
Another big takeaway comes from how his family’s attitude toward him slowly begins to change and how easy it is for them to betray Gregor. Gregor has only changed shape. That’s it. Besides the fact that he cannot communicate, he still feels the same human emotions and has the same human thoughts. Still, his family chooses to treat him indifferently and as if he were an outsider. His own family, whom he used to provide for and who used to be such a massive burden on his back, was ignorant enough to try and kill Gregor for a somewhat minor inconvenience that was out of his control! Gregor had always been willing to endure pain and suffering in order to provide for his family. Even when he first turned into a bug, he thought about his family before himself. Although Gregor has gone to great lengths for them, it seems that it takes just the tiniest issue for his family to throw him away like a dirty trash bag.
It hurts even more that his sister, whom he loved the most, turns on him so easily. Before Gregor turned into a bug, he promised he would make enough money to send his sister away to a school for gifted instrumentalists. She seems to forget this, as well as the other wholesome experiences she’s shared with Gregor throughout his lifetime as a human being, and in the end, she too becomes cold and turns her back on him. Every single thing in Gregor’s life that was once important to him leaves, and it almost seems as if the whole world is against him. Gregor’s family disregards his life as a human and as a bug. They reject his humanity in both forms.
At the end, Gregor feels so burdensome that he goes to his room to contemplate the amount of pain and suffering he has caused his family. It is then that Gregor realizes that his only solution to curing his family’s problems is if he were to die. The following morning, Gregor dies, isolated in his own room away from his family.
Overall, this book was a pretty good read, and I do recommend it to anyone who is interested in books that are full of heavy melancholic themes and surrealistic circumstances. It is amazing how Kafka manages to write about such difficult subjects in such a bizarre way, and yet never fails to deliver the message to his audience.