1. andrewjeddy

    andrewjeddy New Member

    Aug 8, 2011
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    Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by andrewjeddy, Aug 11, 2011.

    I recently read The Metamophosis by Franz Kafka for a Worldveiw class. In the essay I have tried to critique Kafka's basic Worldveiw as evident in the story. I hope it is interesting wether or not you have read the story. I would love any feedback.

    Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka:

    The plot of the story takes place in three parts. At the coda of each part Gregor is further alienated from those he had once loved. In the first part, Gregor is the sole breadwinner for the Samsa family, which includes his mother, father, and sister. One morning he wakes up to the revelation that he has turned into a giant vermin (roach). His boss and his parents are outside his bedroom door trying to get him to answer as to why he is not at work. After a long struggle Gregor finally opens the bedroom door and reveals himself to them. His family is horrified, and his father chases him back into his room. In the second part, the family begins to accept the bizarre situation in which they are placed. Gregor stays hidden in his room, and his sister dutifully and benevolently brings him food and cleans the room. His parents try to ignore him. Gregor listens to them in the evening and notices how their lives have changed. Preoccupied with financial woes, they do not talk or eat much. His mother finally ventures into his room, but accidentally catches sight of him and faints. His father blames Gregor for the chaos, and throws apples at him, wounding him severely and driving him back into his room a second time. In the third and final part, his family slowly grows to resent Gregor. Even his sister, Grete, stops caring for him very well. The wounds from the apples slow him down until he is weak and frail. His increasing distaste and rejection of any food also quickens his impending death. On one occasion, just when Gregor is thinking about how much he loves his sister, he hears her say she wishes he were gone. He retreats into his room a third time and dies from utter despair because of being spurned by all he had ever lived for. In a kind of epilogue, after Gregor's death, his family is happy. Totally forgetting Gregor, they are full of dreams for a happy future.
    The story’s relationship with existentialism is very complex, mainly because the label "existentialist" by itself is almost meaningless. All the primary Existentialist philosophers (such as Kierkegaard, Camus, Sartre, and Heidegger) not only were convoluted themselves, but their philosophies often contradict each other. While they have little in common concerning their religious, philosophical, or political views, they nevertheless share certain characteristic principles present in Kafka.
    Kafka’s works show his fascination with the major theme of all varieties of existentialist thinking, namely the difficulty of responsible commitment in the face of an absurd universe. Deprived of all supernatural regulations, a man is nevertheless obligated to act morally in a world where death renders everything meaningless. He alone must determine what constitutes a moral action although he can never foresee the consequences of his actions. As a result, he comes to regard his total freedom of choice as a curse. The guilt of existentialist protagonists, as of Kafka's, lies in their failure to choose and to commit themselves, they find themselves faced with the fate of trying to wring a measure of dignity for themselves in an absurd world. The absurdity which Kafka portrays in his nightmarish stories was, to him, the quintessence of the whole human condition. The incompatibility of "divine law" and human law, and Kafka's inability to solve this discrepancy are the roots of the sense of estrangement from which his protagonists suffer. Kafka's world is essentially chaotic, each new event only reveals the basic absurdity of things. Absurdity results in estrangement, and to the extent that Kafka deals with this basic calamity, he deals with all eminently existentialist themes.
    The key theme of The Metamorphosis is man's isolation. After Gregor's transmogrification into an insect, his entire family rejects him, even Grete eventually tires of caring for him, wishing he would go away. None of them think about how Gregor feels about his miserable transformation; instead, they are worried about the affects of the metamorphosis on them personally, especially how they are affected financially. To add to his sense of isolation, Gregor must stand by and watch what is happening to the family in silence.
    Another major existential view advanced in the story is that choices are the blight of the individual. If one chooses to devote their life entirely to work, they are no better than droning insects, yet if they devote their lives to leisure, they in an equally disagreeable situation.* As rational beings, the burden of moderation between value to society and value to self must be assumed by the individual. The Metamorphosis also promotes an existential view that says choices will determine the later course of a person's life, and although the person has freedom to make choices, often circumstances outside of our control inhibit our ability to make good choices.* In this case, Gregor’s identity as the family breadwinner causes him to be numb to everything around him once this identity has been taken away from him.
    The Metamorphosis is essentially a tragedy, in the climax Gregor not only dies, but he dies of utter despair, not only had he lost hope of a change in his situation, but everyone he had ever lived for declared him to be unwanted. This makes a statement that is a key aspect of Existentialism: eventually humans must realize that even though we try to make meaning in life by our actions, life itself is essentially absurd. We must try to live morally despite a certainty of death which renders all attempts at avoiding absurdity meaningless and futile. This means that man’s actions are ultimately meaningless and although given choices, he cannot change his basic situation. As a secular existentialist, Kafka remained bound trying to relate the incongruence of life rationally and empirically. In denying a transcendental universe, he seeks to describe life in a naturalistic manner and as a result fails to account for its paradoxical and noncommunicable aspects without resorting to absurdity.
  2. StrangerWithNoName

    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

    Nov 5, 2009
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    the waste lands, somewhere in Europe
    The book is great from a psychological perspective, I think it inspired Cronenberg's "the Fly" and it's very, very mitteleuropean.

    If you can get in english, read "the trial". It's also very...kafkian.

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