Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

“One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.”
The first line of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis basically tells us the whole premise of the book. I’ve always been hesitant to read The Metamorphosis, because it’s not my cup of tea. However, I changed my mind when I read online that The Metamorphosis actually uses magic realism, my thesis topic.

This might sound like a reviewer cliché, but I honestly don’t know what to say about The Metamorphosis. It was well-written in simple language, and I understand why people say Kafka’s a literary genius. However, I felt that the book’s message is still eluding me, and I have to let it simmer for a while. Somehow, I know there’s something more to Gregor Samsa’s transformation, but that something keeps slipping through my fingers.

Was his transformation into an insect or vermin or bug (depending on the translation) meant to symbolize Gregor’s daily grind in his joyless existence as a salesman? That was the first thing that popped into my head, but it doesn’t seem enough.

The family dynamics in the book also interested me. See, Gregor is his family’s breadwinner. When his family realized that Gregor had turned into a cockroach/bug, I was surprised when they were more concerned about themselves, with how they were going to survive without Gregor’s income. Hello, your son just turned into a cockroach. That doesn’t happen everyday. But, then again, what else should I expect from magic realism?

Overall, I’m still on the fence about this book. It’s obviously a work of great literary value, and it gave me a lot to think about. In the end, though, I want a book to stir powerful emotions in me. Of Mice and Men, for example, made my heart hurt while unearthing deep questions about life at the same time. The Metamorphosis just didn’t do that for me.

Rating: 3/5

14 comments:

mel u said...

I am glad you read The Metamorphosis-I read it a few months ago-it is super influential work literature-I want to invite you to this event I trying to do

I would like to invite you to consider participating in

Irish Short Story Week-3/14 to 3/20

Misha said...

I have still not read The Metamorphosis. Like you, I also like a book that can move me. I am sorry to hear that this book doesn't manage to do that.

Amanda said...

This is one of my favorite books ever. I studied it in school, so all the ideas and such that Kafka put forth were ones we discussed at length. I never really thought about it being magical realism so much as surrealism. Gregor turning into a giant bug is really more of a metaphor than an actual real thing. He is in charge of his whole family but one day does not go to work. They treat him like a slave, and see him as less than human (hence the transformation), and they have less and less tolerance for him as he continues not to work and earn them money. He can't just leave, because he loves them and because his father asserts a huge amount of power over him (apple scene).

Most of Kafka's books are filled with several themes. There is that of a power struggle between father and son. There is a conflict of old testament versus new testament religion. There is the pointless mundane life of the common worker. All these things are played on in Metamorphosis. It's a book I've read 5 or 6 times now since college and I get something more out of it every time!

Sharon said...

I've never read this book but it sounds interesting.

Jessica said...

I mentioned in my feview that any literary student would have a field day with this ;) I quite enjoyed it and I enoyed the thoughts that stayed in my head afterwards.

Stephanie M. Hasty said...

while i like metamorphosis...it isn't because i understand it! like you i feel like i am not getting the gist of some elusive tiny something that is...i don't know what...i recommend it to any and everyone in the hopes that they will come back and tell me...and, i can have that 'ah-ha' moment i usually have with works of literature...it's been 15 years...i can be patient...

Allie said...

This is one I had to really think about long after I finished it. When I tried to ignore it, the ideas and themes really hit me. I love the whole family dynamic issues-how at first the family relies on Gregor for everything, but once he can't provide, they still manage to make it...and become better off than when he was in charge of the household.

I have another Kafka title to read at some point....hmm...maybe I should get on that. :)

Red said...

I read this awhile back and I've always felt like I never quite figured out what the book was really about. I love Amanda's explanation! Have you ever read Kafka's "Trial"?

Kerry said...

I was like you when I finished it - not quite sure how I felt. But it kept lingering, and I decided I really did like it, especially because it was so thought-provoking.

Trisha said...

My thoughts on this book are similar to yours - especially now that so much time has passed since I've read it. I think the thinking about it is one of the things I like though...if that makes any sense.

Zibilee said...

I have always wanted to read this book, but for some strange reason, I feel intimidated by it. On the flip side, there is this totally weird movie that I love that is similar to this book. It's called Naked Lunch, and it's just so weirdly surreal and strange. I must have seen it like eight or nine times, and every time I try to share it with someone, they think I am just off my rocker for enjoying it.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

I wasn't much of a fan of this book - I much prefer Kafka's 'The Trial' - which was frustrating and brilliant at the same time.

Here are my reviews:
http://eclectic-indulgence.blogspot.com/2007/12/metamorphosis-franz-kafka.html
http://eclectic-indulgence.blogspot.com/2009/02/trial-franz-kafka.html

celawerdblog said...

I really liked this novella. It was nothing like I thought it would be.

Captain Easychord said...

I think the point you might have missed is that there are multiple transformations in this book. Obviously the main character turning in into a nasty creature is one, but others you might have overlooked is that Gregor turns into a kindhearted human being (despite appearances), while his family turns into the real creatures, the real vermin, in their treatment of him. The minute Gregor is unable to work and needs some help and support from his family they turn on him and become inhuman to his needs.

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