12 March 2016

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Publication: 1915
# of Pages: 201
Source: Purchased Copy 

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes." 

With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis.  It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. 

I supposed one has never experienced 20th century literature until they have devoured the strangeness and the beauty that is Kafka. Read for my Around the World Reading challenge, The Metamorphosis proved to be an extremely weird read. There were several aspects of the novel I did enjoy including Kafka's take on the absurdity of life. His main character Gregor wakes up as a bug and instead of worrying about the state of his new body he is worried about missing work. In our world this may seem peculiar, absurd; however, in the world of Kafka the bridge between reality and imagination is connected more often than not. I found this to be quite interesting. It was my assumption that Gregor, the main character, would be freaked out about his change; however, for him it was all about finances. In some respect I could understand this. If one is responsible for the well being of their entire family it can only be expected that finances would be the center of their concern. Nevertheless, I would expect someone to freak out over this major of a bodily change. But as I read the text I figured out this was simply a part of Kafka's theme of absurdity. 

Another major aspect of this work that I did enjoy was the character development. Although Gregor was the character that was transformed into a bug, his family also went through a metamorphosis of their own. As a direct result of his change each member of the family had to make a change. In a short span of time Kafka is able to create these images of the family and the changes they make. 

In addition to this Kafka makes some interesting ideological statements through the use of his characters. Much of his writing in this novel focuses on the financial status of the family. In this it can be assumed that the text is geared towards analyzing how individuals function in an economic crisis. It also highlights how sometimes those individuals who are a part of the working class are easily thrown away or are not valued when they are unable to work. In some perspectives this can seem like a small battle between Capitalism and Marxism. 

One thing I had trouble getting into was Kafka's style of writing which is extremely unique. The voice of the narrator was often monotone and lacked clear description. It was written in a dream-like manner. To describe this style of writing would be to simply label it as Kafkaesque. And Kafkaesque writing may not really be the writing style I prefer. 

Overall, the story itself was relatively enjoyable to read. I think it was a good choice for my first Kafka work. I may pick up some of his other works in the future. 



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