Irony and Franz Kafka Metamorphosis (free ebook)
“The Metamorphosis” (German: Die Verwandlung, also sometimes termed “The Transformation”) is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the Western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into a monstrous vermin. It is never explained in the story why Samsa transforms, nor did Kafka ever give an explanation.
(free ebook below& very very tiny version)
“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.”
“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream
Through Gregor Samsa’s death we see the truth behind his parents, which in it’s self is ironic. It is difficult to pinpoint one specific thing to write about in the story; there are just so many things that can be brought to light. If I happen to lose sight of my topic bear with me, there is just so much to be discussed in the novella. In the opening lines of the story we are drawn into climax of the story.
We are introduced to the main character, Gregor Samsa, and he has been transformed from a human to a bug.
“Oh, God”, he thought, “what a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there’s the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!” He felt a slight itch up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back towards the headboard so that he could lift his head better; found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered with lots of little white spots which he didn’t know what to make of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his legs he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he was overcome by a cold shudder.
He slid back into his former position. “Getting up early all the time”, he thought, “it makes you stupid. You’ve got to get enough sleep. Other travelling salesmen live a life of luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the guest house during the morning to copy out the contract, these gentlemen are always still sitting there eating their breakfasts. I ought to just try that with my boss; I’d get kicked out on the spot. But who knows, maybe that would be the best thing for me. If I didn’t have my parents to think about I’d have given in my notice a long time ago, I’d have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel. He’d fall right off his desk! And it’s a funny sort of business to be sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your subordinates from up there, especially when you have to go right up close because the boss is hard of hearing. Well, there’s still some hope; once I’ve got the money together to pay off my parents’ debt to him – another five or six years I suppose – that’s definitely what I’ll do. That’s when I’ll make the big change. First of all though, I’ve got to get up, my train leaves at five.”
Gregor gives a long description of his looks and how he is trying to maneuver around. One peculiar thing is he does not panic, ironically he is more concerned with getting to work and hiding himself from his family. He is a hard working man that supports his parents and sister. The notion that he takes care of them seems to slip by the reader in the beginning of the story and does come up again until the end of the story. It is only then that everyone must go out a do something to support the family we finally see at end of the story how useful Gregor was to his family.
“What now, then?”, Gregor asked himself as he looked round in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move at all. This was no surprise to him, it seemed rather that being able to actually move around on those spindly little legs until then was unnatural. He also felt relatively comfortable. It is true that his entire body was aching, but the pain seemed to be slowly getting weaker and weaker and would finally disappear altogether. He could already hardly feel the decayed apple in his back or the inflamed area around it, which was entirely covered in white dust. He thought back of his family with emotion and love. If it was possible, he felt that he must go away even more strongly than his sister. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful rumination until he heard the clock tower strike three in the morning. He watched as it slowly began to get light everywhere outside the window too. Then, without his willing it, his head sank down completely, and his last breath flowed weakly from his nostrils.”
Gregor trapped himself in this world of sales because of his parents. He states “I’d be sacked on the spot. Anyhow, that might be quite a good thing for me, who can tell? If I didn’t to hold my hand because of my parents I’d have given notice long time ago, I’d have gone to the chief and told him exactly what I think of him.” They live in an upper class flat and they have hired help to wait on them, and Gregor is the one who supports it all. His father lost his business and his mother and sister do not work. The metamorphosis of Gregor is a dark blessing to him. It releases him from all of the pressures of daily life, his family, and at times he seems to enjoy being a bug. At one point he tells us how much he enjoys crawling up and down the walls and ceiling. Throughout the story there is a metamorphosis that is taking place in his home. He has traded places with the family and is now living the life they had previously embelished in. His father begins to work along with his sister and his mother must now work and do the cooking and cleaning. Gregor on the other hand does nothing but daydream, crawl, and nap through his days. One ironic statement from his sister “He must go, if this were Gregor he would have realized long ago human beings can’t live with such a creature, he’d have gone away one his own accord.
This creature persecutes us, drives away our lodgers, obviously wants the whole apartment to himself, and would have us all sleep in the gutter.” How selfish of her, had he not taken care of them and he was not the only one working to make sure they were not sleeping in the gutter? As for him wanting the whole apartment, he lived in his tiny room until his death. I think he ventured out twice only to be scurried back in by threat. These people had paid as little attention to him as possible before and after the metamorphosis. In the last few pages we read of Gregor’s death. The chairwomen spots the corpse and they come running as she yells to them. Grete does seem to be he most upset, but the fact that she is staring down at him could be disbelief. Disbelief that it is all over with just as she wanted. The parents do not seem affected at all, his father crosses himself and says “well, now thanks be to God.” I though to myself as I was reading that it was ironic that he was giving up a prayer of thanks at his son’s death. His mother questions the chairwomen “Dead?” she asks, almost as if she wants to make sure. She then walks away and turns to Grete to tell her to join them with a “tremendous smile.” They really do not have any remorse about the situation at all; they are truly more concerned with themselves. Gregor is dead now and each can return to life. As if he were such a burden to them, they acted as if he were dead from the first morning the metamorphosis took place until the morning he took his last breath. It is almost evil the way they handled his death. “They decided to take the day resting and going for a stroll, for they had deserved such a respite from work.”Such sarcastic undertones lie in that sentence, for they had not done anything to deserve a day off of work. Finally in the last paragraph of the novella we see truly how rotten Mr. and Mrs. Samsa really are. They are riding along devising a mentally scheme of what to do next in life. Now that the burden of Gregor was gone they would have to find someone else to mooch off of. They look at their daughter as their newest and last asset. “pretty girl with a good figure.
“The greatest improvement for the time being, of course, would be achieved quite easily by moving house; what they needed now was a flat that was smaller and cheaper than the current one which had been chosen by Gregor, one that was in a better location and, most of all, more practical. All the time, Grete was becoming livelier. With all the worry they had been having of late her cheeks had become pale, but, while they were talking, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa were struck, almost simultaneously, with the thought of how their daughter was blossoming into a well built and beautiful young lady. They became quieter. Just from each other’s glance and almost without knowing it they agreed that it would soon be time to find a good man for her. And, as if in confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions, as soon as they reached their destination Grete was the first to get up and stretch out her young body.”
They are unconsciously agreeing with each other, for nothing of this was being discussed out loud. The story excitedly states “soon it would be time to find a good husband for her. And it was like conformation of their new dreams and excellent intentions.” Sick. My conclusion to this paper is short and sweet. Gregor escaped his hell and for awhile bore his parents into theirs. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa were rotten people down to the core. By the end of the story they are trying to erase any trace of him from their lives, he is simply not worth any thing to them now. The metamorphosis is a story of irony from start to finish. It begins with the climax, which is ironic, for most stories could not hold the reader’s attention if they had done that.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka Translated by David Wyllie.
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