Which Aspect of Gregor’s Story Most Likely Reflects Franz Kafka’s Life

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Abstract:

This research paper studies the novella “The Metamorphosis” from absurdism and existing ways and how those two theories reflect on the novella from the point of view of Gregor Samsa the protagonist and from the writer's POV which is “Franz Kafka”. Also, this paper will show how Franz Kafka mirrored himself through the protagonist in the novella and how it felt that he was trying to tell us about his life but in an indirect way so that people don’t get bored especially if they are not interested in reading about someone’s autobiography. Furthermore, the research paper will discuss the reflection of absurdism and existentialism in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Key terms: Absurdism, Existentialism, conciseness, the metamorphosis, Franz Kafka.

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Introduction

Franz Kafka is a writer who wrote more than one novella such as “the metamorphosis, The trial, Amerika” and many more Kafka expresses his life through his writing. Existentialism was one of the main theories that Kafka relied on, philosophers argued on the right meaning of existentialism, but Webber argued that the definition of existentialism:

“Existentialism which carries different themes and meanings focuses basically on the individual-God relationship; the reason for people’s existence and the role this existence has got. It denotes that man’s life is full of unease, restlessness, awkwardness, apprehensions, worries, angst, and fear, and with no meaning in life”. (qt.in Benadla, Djamel, and Ghambaza Ahmed Hicham,2021)

This definition sounded the most accurate and reliable to the novella “The Metamorphosis”

Especially since the protagonist had this feeling of not feeling existential and absurd

As for absurdism also, philosophers argued a lot about the definition of absurdism cline argued that:

“Absurdity is strongly related to existentialist philosophy which qualifies human existence as being meaningless, ambiguous, desperate, and chaotic. Literally, absurdity refers to all that is meaningless, bizarre, illogical, irrational, foolish, ridiculous, and unreasonable”. (qt.in Benadla, Djamel, and Ghambaza Ahmed Hicham,2021)

Both definitions of existentialism and absurdity show a lot in the novella and especially that it expresses his life in “The Metamorphosis” in this novel Franz Kafka uses his imagination and what is close to the unrealistic life, Kafka show in the metamorphosis a man that usesd to be a regular human being that used to work as a salesman and all the sudden one day he has transformed into a huge insect out of nowhere and from that day that man “Gregor Samsa” life changed completely, moreover here come the Existentialism theory and its role in the novel in which Kafka didn’t choose for the man to transform into any other animal except for the insect because for us humans we don’t care for the insects as much as we care for all the other animals, they basically don’t exist and no one care about them and that’s how the protagonist in the novella felt after he became an insect he felt that he is a shame for his family and that he doesn’t exist because he lost all his communication he used to have and he doesn’t talk to any of his family because his family trapped him in his room so that no one sees him and he brings shame to the family. Franz Kafka suffered from a physical problem which is tuberculous this physical problem made Kafka to have depression and also isolate himself from being around people, this made Kafka release his power of creativity and start to express his feeling and his life through his writing, This research paper will be about the Reflections of Absurdism and Existentialism in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and how did Kafka apply that theory in the novel and how did he show it in the characters either from the way they act their features and even their personal life, furthermore this research paper will study the existentialism and absurdism and how Kafka was giving us messages through his writings about his real life and the struggle that he went through.

Plot summary:

The Metamorphosis is A novel written by Franz Kafka, this novel talks about a man called Gregor Samsa he was a traveling salesman Kafka wanted to illustrate his existentialism through the protagonist “Gregor Samsa” through the novel Kafka made sure to make Gregor appear no more than an insect especially when his life started breaking off. One day Gregor woke up to find his body turned into a large insect, he thought that it was just a dream, so he decided to go back to sleep so that he stops thinking about it, but this didn’t work because he turned into an insect in real life and sleeping won’t make any difference, especially that he has a hard shell back and legs. Gregor used to have a job when he was a regular human, but that day when he became an insect he was late for his job and when he realized that he was late he suddenly heard his boss downstairs asking his family why he was late for the job, and they came to knock on his door so that he answers and unlock it but he didn’t, once his family begged him to answer them he did but his family noticed that his voice was different and there was something wrong. When Gregor opened the door which was a hard process for him everyone was terrified his father pushes him back into the room and lock the door on him because he doesn’t want anyone to see him because that will be a shame for his family. Gregor then faces a lot of problems because of the thing that happened to him, especially since his family was falling apart.

Discussion:

Existentialism and absurdism were a part of the novel The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka has included a notion of how meaningless the world really is and how the protagonist in the metamorphosis is probably showing the struggle that Kafka went through in his life feeling that he didn’t exist because of the surrounding people that he used to live with and how he felt that he didn’t belong to the society in any shape or form, and lastly his bad relationship with his father especially that boys should have a good relationship with their father because he is the real best friend that anyone would look for. The first chapter in the novel focuses a lot on Gregor Samsa and how his life changed when he turned into an insect, but what most got me is when Gregor was trying to get up from his bed to open the room door for his family “As he was thinking all this over in the greatest haste, without being able to make the decision to get out of bed” (Kafka,pg6) I feel like here Kafka wanted us to know more about his life in an indirect way and how when he was unable to rise from the bed it symbolizes how his existential was disappearing. Dr. Batta argued that

“Kafka can be related to these writers on the basis of his physical problems and temperament, as Kierkegaard suffered from the problem of the hunchback, and Dostoevsky suffered from epilepsy. Similarly, Kafka suffered from tuberculosis. Due to their physical problems, these writers became introverts, got alienated, and isolated from their societies. All three of them, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Kafka were physically and temperamentally different and they projected their differences as the source of their creative power”. (Batta,2017)

What batta argued is what showed in the novel “the metamorphosis” and most of Franz Kafka's novels but in the metamorphosis, Franz tries to show his inner sickness in the form of an insect and through Gregor which represents him, not a lot of people would realize this unless they know the background life of Kafka, he was destroyed and hated his life because of his sickness and in result, he isolated himself from being around people so that he doesn’t get judged by them

Just like how he did with the protagonist Gregor when he turned into an insect, he locked himself in the room and didn’t want anyone to see him not even his family. And from the title of the novel we can tell that the meaning would be a transformation in the novel it means the transformation of Gregor Samsa from being a salesman and turning Into an insect, but in real life, Kafka is talking about the transformation that happened to his life after he got diagnosed with the tuberculous disease that is a lung disease and this sickness caused in the death of him, It transformed his life because he used to be everything for his family and work to get money for them but when he got sick he couldn’t do this anymore, just like how what happened to Gregor Samsa when he turned into an insect.

The reflection of existentialism in the novel was very noticeable and you might ask yourself can we ever be in the wrong place at the right time? That’s what got me thinking throughout the whole novella, do I exist in the right place, it also got me thinking about the things in my life that can make me not exist and how the life of Kafka was represented, and how he made Gregor contemplating the way he exists and how after he turned into an insect, he no longer can get money to help his family

“O God,’ he thought, ‘what a demanding job I’ve chosen! Day in, day out on the road. The stresses of trade are much greater than the work going on at the head office, and, in addition to that, I must deal with the problems of traveling, the worries about train connections, irregular bad food, temporary and constantly changing human relationships which never come from the heart. To hell with it all!’ He felt a slight itching on the top of his abdomen. He slowly pushed himself on his back closer to the bedpost so that he could lift his head more easily, found the itchy part, which was entirely covered with small white spots, and wanted to feel the place with a leg. But he retracted it immediately, for the contact felt like a cold shower all over him” (Kafka 4)

Here this showed that Gregor’s family used to only communicate and know him for the money that he gets for them other than that they wouldn’t talk to him and this is exactly what happened to him once the metamorphosis happened and he turned into an insect they stopped talking to him as if he was something to be ashamed of and also they stopped communicating with him because he stopped getting money for them since he lost his job.

Absurdism:

Furthermore, Batta argues that the theme in the novel is all about absurdity and that also absurdism concludes the theme of the novel

The theme of The Metamorphosis is not exempt from the elements of absurdity. Absurdity wraps up the entire theme of the story. The text contains both forms of alienation physical and mental isolation. Gregor’s anxious isolation in his bedroom sandwiched between his parents’ room and that of his sister Grete, where the three family members are communicating with him through three different doors and directions, is evidence of his physical isolation. (Batta, p623).

What I think is that Kafka was trying to reflect the way he was treated and how absurd he was in his real life he tried to mirror his life through Gregor and how his family showed Gregor that he is not welcome anymore to live with his family, so just imagine your family just disowning you for something that you have no hand in, also absurdism was reflected a lot in theme and one of the major sentences that Gregor’s mom told him is “if it was Gregor he would long ago seen that human beings cannot live together with an animal like that, he would have left of his own free will, that would have meant I didn’t have a brother[…]. (Kafka, p138) this quotation from the novella summarizes why Gregor used to feel nonexistent and how his family wanted him in their house before because he used to work and support them financially but when the metamorphosis happened everything changed.

Moreover, on absurdism why do humans feel like they mean nothing in this world and their existence is just worthless and meaningless, Giovanniello argued that “By tracing the path of self-awareness that writers typically employed throughout different periods of history, we discover a relationship between self-consciousness and the manner in which metamorphosis is employed as a literary technique. (Giovanniello,2015) This applied to Kafka and how he was trying to show that Gregor is conscious of the scenario that is happening and how his family doesn’t want him and treats him like he doesn’t exist, some people have the same life as Gregor but they didn’t turn into an insect are unconscious of their existentialism and think that people treat them as if they were not humans is just something regular, or maybe that they are the problem. But Kafka was conscious of everything that was going around him and since he isolated himself, he expressed everything that was going around him in his writings.

As mentioned in the book the absurd in modern literature that in an absurd world makes our memories fragmented and isolated just like Gregor […]in an absurd universe devoid of meaning; the unjustified presence of the being of things; the mechanically trite and complacent nature of bourgeois life enmeshed in trivial gossip about weather, family, jobs, marriage, traffic, or fragmented memories; the difficulty of communicating, the uncertainty of one's own identity; frustration, conform. (Wegener, p151)

The fact that whenever isolation enters our life it demolishes all the relationships and the good things, we used to have in our life like our job our time out with friends, etc. also the feeling that we must hide because no one can see us since we don’t exist and we have to keep it all to ourself that is how Gregor used to feel absurd and nonexistent, Kafka mirrored this in Gregor because he was fighting to seem normal with his diagnoses but he felt that he will never be normal again so he died because of that “isolation”.

In the novella, Gregor tries his best to overcome the fact that he turned into an insect, but his family constantly reminds him of it, that he is just an insect and as Francis argues that in the Metamorphosis Gregor constantly makes an effort to gain acceptance and to be part of the family, but the family keeps him at a distance and treats him as an insect even before he was an insect. After Gregor turns into an insect, it is more visible how they alienate him. (Francis, p25). This is what made Gregor feel inexistent we can see that his family was conscious about their acts and the way they treat but still they insist on making him feel bad about himself and how he is such a shame for the family.

Conclusion:

This research paper has discussed “The Metamorphosis” and how it was reflected by existentialism and absurdism, and how Kafka wanted to mirror himself through Gregor when he turned into a bug and lost everything that he has also the consequences of the metamorphosis of Gregor and how it affected his life and the bad relationship with everyone that made him lose everything starting with his job and then his family love for him but it turned out that that love was only because he used to support his family financially and once he stopped because he couldn’t they didn’t want him to be even around them because he will bring shame to the family. Kafka wanted to mirror himself through Gregor and why they both isolated themselves from the world Kafka changed his diagnosis the “Tuberculosis” into Gregor’s metamorphosis “turning into an insect” Kafka uses Gregor to exemplify his life and or to show Kafka’s life in an indirect way and how he used to feel while he was sick and his isolation that leads into his death because he didn’t know how to deal with it and overcome his nonexistent life. Furthermore, this research paper also include arguments from different articles and philosophers that studied the novella either from an existential way or absurdism way and some of them studied both, the findings that I came up with is that Kafka is trying to give us messages through his novella and only through The Metamorphosis also that the novella can be studied from an absurd and existentialism way you might not see it at the beginning but when you read it more then once and you see it you cant stop seeing it or thinking about it, Absurdism and existentialism are reflected in the novella through the consequences and the acts of Gregor Samsa and it showed a lot through he quotations that I supported my research paper with from the novella, I was so happy I choose the existentialism theory because it opened my eye on new ways of reading the novel, what was interesting too is that the novel can be seen from different perspectives and the existentialism was reflected through the whole novella.

Work cited (Bibliography):

  1. -Benadla, Djamel, and Ghambaza Ahmed Hicham. 'The Convergence of Existentialism and Absurdity in the Understanding of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.'
  2. -Giovanniello, Michael. 'The Will to change: The Role of Self-consciousness in the Literature of Metamorphosis.' (2015).
  3. -Prithivirajan, S., Absurd Transformation in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (August 9, 2020). Electronic Research Journal of Literature, Volume 2 (2020), Available at SSRN: https:ssrn.comabstract=3670327- Wegener, Adolph H. 'The absurd in modern literature.' Books abroad 41.2 (1967): 150-156
  4. - Kafka, Franz. The metamorphosis. Schocken Books, 1948.
  5. - Francis, Sameer. 'Existential Approach to Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ Sameer Francis, b Diwakar Prahaladaiah.'
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Which Aspect of Gregor’s Story Most Likely Reflects Franz Kafka’s Life. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/which-aspect-of-gregors-story-most-likely-reflects-franz-kafkas-life/
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Which Aspect of Gregor’s Story Most Likely Reflects Franz Kafka’s Life. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/which-aspect-of-gregors-story-most-likely-reflects-franz-kafkas-life/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Which Aspect of Gregor’s Story Most Likely Reflects Franz Kafka’s Life [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/which-aspect-of-gregors-story-most-likely-reflects-franz-kafkas-life/
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