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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka holds its merit as one of the most profoundly original works of the 20th century, and let me tell you, Kafka’s ability to combine magic with realism comes across from all points in his most famous novella. It continues to be popular read analyzed by many colleges, universities, students, philosophers, and readers, but the plot (unlike the potentially conceptual aspects of Kafka’s writing) is somewhat simple.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis tells the story of a traveling salesman named Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find out that he has turned into an insect-like creature for apparently no reason. Now, as far as awkward moments go, I would say that most would find it an unpleasant inconvenience and wake up to find oneself looking like one of those horror film insect monsters. After questioning “why” several times, Gregor avoids hysterics and accepts his condition. However, Gregor refuses to let this become a burden to him or his family, most especially his younger sister who he cares a great deal about.

One of the main antagonists of this story is society, which usually is the antagonist nowadays. Everyone who comes across Gregor’s mysterious affliction completely ostracize him, and his own family stops treating him like a human being. Yet, Gregor still loves his family, so much that he hides in uncomfortable places and accepts his father’s violence toward him to keep them from feeling shame. He is laughed at, beaten, and shunned during the duration of this tale.

It is then revealed in multiple parts of the story, that before Gregor’s transformation, he was being used and bent so easily to his family’s demands. The reason he had even gone into his job was because of his love for the family, and their need for financial support. He is a powerless hero in a sense, for he demonstrates the qualities of a morally good man. Yet, Gregor is so weak, that like the insect he becomes, he is easily pushed around and eventually crushed under the toe of society’s boot.

The storyline is dark and obscure, and in a sense, depressing. However, it is very unique and overpoweringly bizarre from the very beginning to the end. Kafka’s writing style is known to always have something hiding behind every sentence. At first when I read this in ninth grade, I kept thinking, “What is going through the author’s mind right now? What does this even mean? Why would this happen?” Kafka has been known to never divulge the answer to the “why?”s of his readers. Yet the theme, illustrated by Gregor’s selfless love for his family, is quite relatable. The selfish feelings of all humans, the powerlessness we feel when those we love hurt us, and how oddities are rejected from society, and the problems that emerge in the typical lives of the bourgeois, are all prevalent in The Metamorphosis.

Franz Kafka truly is one of the strangest and most extraordinary storytellers in pioneering magical realism, and I find that this novel provides a gateway for stronger intellectual thinking and it really grows on you. It is simply a tragic example of how self-sacrificing, morally good people are eaten, chewed up, and spat out by society.



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