Friday, February 3, 2017

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (and other writings)

First of all, Penguin Classics should put a subtitle “and other writings” after Metamorphosis for this edition. I have a habit of ignoring list of contents or notes, because chapters/part titles often reveal the story plot. For me, curiosity is part of reading excitement, thus I don’t like anyone to reveal anything before I read it myself. When I need a reference or anything to help me understanding a passage, I will consult the introduction or list of contents myself.

So, without any subtitle, I assumed that when I opened the first page of the story, it had to be The Metamorphosis. “The Contemplation—printed largely on first page—I assumed to be a part title (silly me! -_-). And so I read on, chapter after chapter, yet I could not find any thread. Every chapter seemed to be independent story, though it also felt incomplete. Until I finally reached the part of The Metamorphosis. Only then I knew there’s something wrong. I consulted the “note on the text” in the front pages, and found that “The stories in this collection were written…..” Oh OK! It’s a story/journal collection then, not a single novella!

The first collection was Contemplation, written in first person POV. All of them have one same tone: wary, dejected, and lonely. The Metamorphosis itself had the same tone. The protagonist (Gregor) feels alienated and burdened by his job. But what disturbed me most is the reaction of his father, mother, and most of all, his sister, against his metamorphosis. The disgust is one thing, but how can they not feel any affection about their son/brother, that they want to get rid of him? It was Gregor who has provided for them before the metamorphosis, how easy it is for them to ignore his sacrifices!

In the next stories/journals, lack of recognition theme came again. In fact, I have jotted down aspects or themes that are interesting and quite often appeared throughout the book, here they are:

Lack of recognition from authority
“Life is astonishingly brief”
Huge gap between superior and inferior
Lack of gratitude > slaving
Mechanical structure
Suicidal behavior
No way out
Metamorphosed to animal
Caged > helplessness

So I think, to better understanding Kafka, or the meaning of his writings, is to find the connecting thread. Unfortunately I am quite hectic at present to much analysis, but I think it’s safe to conclude that Kafka wrote this book out of disappointment of his own life and maybe, of the social condition. To what and why? I have still much to analyze… or do you know? Have you read the book? What is your conclusion?


  1. That's too bad about this edition. I'm exactly the same way - I avoid *anything* that could give spoilers. And with Kafka, whose narrative is already rambling, I can see how it would be confusing!

    You pretty much hit upon the main themes of The Metamorphosis. From what I've heard, a number of his writings are veiled commentaries on his difficult relationship with his own father.

    Personally I love The Metamorphosis because to me it's about a person with a disability (physical or mental) and how society's view of them changes when they go from "working" member to "dependent" member. It's really sad, but it seems to actually depict how a lot of elderly people are treated. Kafka's story, of course, is more dramatic because it's about a young man.

    1. Hi MH, apology for my late reply...
      I have guessed that Kafka somehow had difficult relationship with his father, which then inspired his writings. So, it's true, then...
      It's interesting what you said about treatment of elderly people, I haven't thought that.

  2. Wow...that title thing would have annoyed me. I'm with you on reading curiosity, so I also avoid looking at chapter names, forwards, and the like.


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