The Metamorphosis Research Paper

Submitted By fneftin
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Many authors and writers would argue that it was quite bold and outlandish for Franz Kafka to introduce his novella, The Metamorphosis, with a sentence stating that the main character had woken up to find himself transformed into a monstrous insect. Moreover, the audacity and absurdum of Kafka’s first sentence makes it even harder to imagine that the rest of the novella could contain any sort of practicality or realism. Although the first sentence sets the stage for a surrealist story, which was something that Kafka purposely intended to do, this novella does actually parallel Gregor Samsa’s dreamlike transformation with Kafka’s own solemn personal life. This meant that Kafka used Gregor Samsa’s exaggerated and surreal transformation into a verminous insect in order to portray the feelings of alienation, physical inferiority, and ingrained apprehensive behavior that affected his life. In order to see how similar Kafka and Gregor Samsa were to each other, one must first look closely into the influences and sentiments that impacted Kafka’s life. Franz Kafka grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in the city of Prague. Kafka’s childhood days were quite lonely because his mother worked nearly twelve hours a day in order to support the family business and his father spent most of his time working as an overbearing businessman.1 Kafka’s father Hermann was also a very ruling and prominent figure in his life, as he constantly pressured Kafka to take over the family business and profoundly disapproved Kafka’s desires to become a writer. This led Kafka to take on a job as a traveling insurance officer, which was a career that made it difficult for Kafka to focus on his writing. Hermann was also known to physically abuse Kafka whenever he disagreed with him, which ultimately left Kafka to live his life under the shadow of his father. Kafka’s relationship with his father is represented in the novella in the way that Gregor’s father physically abuses Gregor and deems him useless after his transformation into an insect. Another important aspect of Kafka’s life that influenced him to write The Metamorphosis was his love life. Throughout Kafka’s life, he was known to be sexually active and had several relationships with various women. The importance of these women in Kafka’s life can be seen in Elias Canetti’s book, Kafka’s Other Trial: The Letter to Felice, where Canetti states, “[These women] were securities somewhere far off, a source of strength, sufficiently distant to leave his sensitivity lucid… Women who was there for him without expecting more than his words.”2 This is important to note because throughout the novella, Gregor’s sister was the only character to take the initiative to support Gregor during his transformation, albeit in a distant fashion. In addition to Kafka’s family and love life, two noteworthy people that impacted Kafka’s writing of The Metamorphosis were the revolutionary German sociologist Karl Marx and the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. These two people were influential in the development of this novella because Kafka incorporated many elements of Marx and Freud’s sociological and psychoanalytical studies. A further look into Marx and Freud’s impact on this novella will be discussed later in this analysis.
One of the unequivocal ways in which Kafka transplanted his own life into The Metamorphosis was the similarity between Gregor’s job as a travelling salesman and Kafka’s own career as an insurance officer. The idea of human self-alienation is prevalent in Kafka and Gregor’s business careers because their occupations alienated both of them from their essential nature as human beings. This concept of doing work that alienates a person from his own essential self is presented in Walter Sokel’s article From Marx to Myth: The Structure and Function of Self-Alienation in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, where Sokel states, “The freedom of doing one’s work for its own sake, for the joy it affords the worker, is the…