The Metamorphosis Published 1915 Franz Kafka Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis Published 1915 Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis Published 1915 Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka • 1883 -1924 • Born in Prague (in what is now the

Franz Kafka • 1883 -1924 • Born in Prague (in what is now the Czech Republic) • Spoke and wrote in German • Had a doctorate in law, but worked in the insurance industry 2

 • Developed an inferiority complex partly due to his difficult, neurotic relationship with

• Developed an inferiority complex partly due to his difficult, neurotic relationship with his tyrannical father • Contracted tuberculosis in 1917 and was supported by his sister and parents • Feared being perceived as both physically and mentally repulsive • Suffered from clinical depression, social anxiety, and several other illnesses triggered by stress • Died in 1924 from starvation when his tuberculosis worsened and he could not swallow 3

Franz Kafka • Felt he was an outsider – Jewish in Catholic Prague –

Franz Kafka • Felt he was an outsider – Jewish in Catholic Prague – Sickly – Lonely • Perceived human beings as being trapped by authority in a hopeless world • Had to work in a meaningless bureaucratic job where he was just another pencil pusher 4

Setting the Scene • The protagonist of the story is Gregor Samsa, who is

Setting the Scene • The protagonist of the story is Gregor Samsa, who is the son of middle-class parents in Prague. • Gregor’s father lost most of his money about five years earlier, causing Gregor to take a job with one of his father's creditors as a travelling salesman. • Gregor provides the sole support for his family (father, mother, and sister), and also found them their current lodgings in Prague. • When the story begins, Gregor is spending a night at home before embarking upon another business trip. And then. . . 5

 • This is a novel about Gregor Samsa who learns about who he

• This is a novel about Gregor Samsa who learns about who he really is through an overwhelming psychological experience that turns him inward. • His first step in this journey is disobedience: – Refuses to go to work – Refuses to follow the rules of etiquette 6

 • In his new condition, Gregor begins his soul searching: – Accepts that

• In his new condition, Gregor begins his soul searching: – Accepts that he has conformed to his family’s and employer’s demands – Realizes the lack of authenticity and meaninglessness of his life 7

Significance • Writers often use fantastic events to signify additional levels of meaning beyond

Significance • Writers often use fantastic events to signify additional levels of meaning beyond the literal. • Thus, we need to ask ourselves what Gregor’s metamorphosis signifies in terms of larger issues. 8

Symbols • • The Apple Music The Lodgers Charwoman Marriage Number Three Door to

Symbols • • The Apple Music The Lodgers Charwoman Marriage Number Three Door to Gregor’s Room 9

Lost in Translation? • “Vermin” can either be defined as a parasite feeding off

Lost in Translation? • “Vermin” can either be defined as a parasite feeding off the living (as is Gregor's family feeding off him), or a vulnerable entity that scurries away upon another’s approach, as Gregor does for most of the narrative after his transformation. 10

His Parents and the Clerk • When Gregor finally escapes from his room, his

His Parents and the Clerk • When Gregor finally escapes from his room, his appearance so horrifies all onlookers (the chief clerk runs away, and his mother screams and upsets a pot of coffee) that his father beats him back into the chamber, making him bleed in the process. 11

 • Once he sheds his previous self, Gregor begins to delve into his

• Once he sheds his previous self, Gregor begins to delve into his own unconscious and confront the truth of his life. • Gregor evolves from psychological immaturity to the courage of self responsibility. • For the very first time in his life, Gregor becomes blissful and becomes a mature person. • Gregor dies with this realization, a transformed human being 12

His Parents and the Clerk • So, Gregor goes full circle: he is imprisoned

His Parents and the Clerk • So, Gregor goes full circle: he is imprisoned in his body, and he is once again imprisoned in his room. • Thus ends Part I of the novella. 13

Part II: Gregor’s Family • In Part II, we learn much more about Gregor’s

Part II: Gregor’s Family • In Part II, we learn much more about Gregor’s parents and sister, and their responses to the transformed situation in their household. • We experience all of this from Gregor’s perspective, as he listens to his family through the door of his room. 14

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Our access to his family, then, is, like Gregor’s,

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Our access to his family, then, is, like Gregor’s, limited, and filtered through his perspective. • At the beginning of Part II, human food has been placed in his room by his sister (bread and milk) and is wholly unappealing. • Disappointed, Gregor spends the remainder of the long evening trying to hear his family in the living room. 15

Part II: Gregor’s Family • He cannot hear much, however, and notes “‛What a

Part II: Gregor’s Family • He cannot hear much, however, and notes “‛What a quiet life our family has been leading, ’ [. . . ] and as he sat there motionless staring into the darkness he felt great pride in the fact that he had been able to provide such a life for his parents and sister in such a fine flat. But what if all the quiet, the comfort, the contentment were now to end in horror? ” (970). • What “horror” is Gregor referring to? 16

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Although the narrative goes on to note that “[t]o

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Although the narrative goes on to note that “[t]o keep himself from being lost in such thoughts, Gregor took refuge in movement and crawled up and down in the room, ” neither Gregor nor his family seem particularly horrified by his transformation. • The horror that Gregor suggests appears to be poverty – the loss of the respectability and comfort that his job provided. 17

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “He stayed there all night, spending the time partly

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “He stayed there all night, spending the time partly in a light slumber, from which his hunger kept waking him up with a start, and partly worrying and sketching vague hopes, which all led to the same conclusion, that he must lie low for the present and, by exercising patience and the utmost consideration, help the family to bear the inconvenience that he was bound to cause them in his present condition” (970). 18

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s concern is for his family, and not for

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s concern is for his family, and not for himself. Are they equally concerned with him? • At first, they seem to be. Gregor’s sister Grete brings him a selection of foods (he chooses the ones that have rotted), and he is pathetically grateful. Note, though, what happens when she returns to the room. . . 19

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor, knowing that he can do nothing to help

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor, knowing that he can do nothing to help the family now, keeps thinking about this situation, and wondering what his family will do. • What does he hear his father telling the rest of the family about their financial situation? 20

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s family have been living off his earnings while

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s family have been living off his earnings while he slaves away at a job that he hates, and, as the description that follows suggests, their behaviour seems particularly parasitic given how clearly unprepared they are to work: 21

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “Now, his father was still hale enough but an

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “Now, his father was still hale enough but an old man, and he had done no work for the past five years and could not be expected to do much; during these five years, the first years of leisure in his laborious though unsuccessful life, he had grown rather fat and become sluggish. . . ” 22

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “And Gregor’s old mother, how was she to earn

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “And Gregor’s old mother, how was she to earn a living with her asthma, which troubled her even when she walked through the flat and kept her lying on a sofa every other day panting for breath beside an open window? . . . ” 23

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “And was his sister to earn her bread, she

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “And was his sister to earn her bread, she who was still a child of seventeen and whose life hitherto had been so pleasant, consisting as it did in dressing herself nicely, sleeping long, helping in the housekeeping, going out to a few modest entertainments and above all playing the violin? ” (974). 24

Part II: Gregor’s Family • There is a certain amount of irony in the

Part II: Gregor’s Family • There is a certain amount of irony in the narrative voice here – while Gregor feels a great deal of shame for the perilous situation in which he believes that he has left his family, there’s a clear implication here that it is they who are to blame. 25

Part II: Gregor’s Family • His parents stay out of the room, but eventually,

Part II: Gregor’s Family • His parents stay out of the room, but eventually, Gregor’s mother enters. • His sister suggests that, if they were to take the furniture out of his room, Gregor would have more space in which to crawl about. • Gregor’s mother, however, is not convinced, believing that taking the furniture away might be read as a sign that the family has given up all hope (977). 26

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “Although Gregor kept reassuring himself that nothing out of

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “Although Gregor kept reassuring himself that nothing out of the way was happening, but only a few bits of furniture were being changed round, he [. . . ] was bound to confess that he could not be able to stand it for long. They were clearing his room out; taking away everything he loved” (978). 27

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor decides that he must at least save the

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor decides that he must at least save the picture on the wall, and so attaches himself to it, but his mother faints at the sight of him, and, concerned for his mother, Gregor is outside of his room when his father demands to know what has been happening. 28

Part II: Gregor’s Family • What follows is one of the most important scenes

Part II: Gregor’s Family • What follows is one of the most important scenes in the story. • First of all, Gregor’s father has changed: “Truly, this was not the father he had imagined to himself [. . . ] and yet, could that be his father? the man who used to lie wearily sunk in bed [. . . w]as standing there in fine shape; dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons such as bank messengers wear; his strong double chin bulged over the stiff high collar of his jacket. . . ” 29

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “from underneath his bushy eyebrows his black eyes darted

Part II: Gregor’s Family • “from underneath his bushy eyebrows his black eyes darted fresh and penetrating glances; his onetime tangled white hair had been combed flat on either side of a shining and carefully exact parting. He pitched his cap [. . . ] in a wide sweep across the whole room on to a sofa and with the tailends of his jacket thrown back, his hands in his trouser pockets, advanced with a grim visage towards Gregor. [. . . ] Gregor was dumbfounded at the enormous size of his shoe soles” (980). 30

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s father does not actually stomp on Gregor, but

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s father does not actually stomp on Gregor, but he does pelt him with apples while his son is trying to escape, hurting him tremendously. • At the end of Part II, Gregor loses consciousness just as he sees his mother “with her hands clasped round his father’s neck as she begged for her son’s life” (981). 31

Part II: Gregor’s Family • At this point, how does each member of Gregor’s

Part II: Gregor’s Family • At this point, how does each member of Gregor’s family feel about him? 32

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s sister has become openly hostile towards the brother

Part II: Gregor’s Family • Gregor’s sister has become openly hostile towards the brother she once loved. • Gregor’s mother still appears to have some love for him, but she is very much struggling to adjust to his present form, and this struggle is taking its toll on her health. • Gregor’s father has become strong (after five years of being completely supported by Gregor), and is not afraid to use his new power against his son. 33

Part III: Decline and Death • “The serious injury done to Gregor, which disabled

Part III: Decline and Death • “The serious injury done to Gregor, which disabled him for more than a month—the apple went on sticking in his body as a visible reminder, since no one ventured to remove it—seemed to have made even his father recollect that Gregor was a member of the family, despite his present unfortunate and repulsive shape, and ought not to be treated as an enemy, that, on the contrary, family duty required the suppression of disgust and the exercise of patience, nothing but patience” (981). 34

Part III: Decline and Death • The door leading from Gregor's darkened room to

Part III: Decline and Death • The door leading from Gregor's darkened room to the lighted living room is now left open every evening, but when Gregor creeps out to listen to his family’s conversations, they sound glum, tired, and defeated (981 -82). • The serving-girl is dismissed (replaced with an elderly charwoman, who becomes important later on), and “[v]arious family ornaments, which his mother and sister used to wear with pride at parties and celebrations, had to be sold” (982). 35

Part III: Decline and Death • “But what they lamented most was the fact

Part III: Decline and Death • “But what they lamented most was the fact that they could not leave the flat which was much too big for their present circumstances, because they could not think of any way to shift Gregor. Yet Gregor saw well enough that consideration for him was not the main difficulty preventing the removal, for they could have easily shifted him in some suitable box with a few air holes in it; what really kept them from moving into another flat was rather their own complete hopelessness and the belief that they had been singled out for a misfortune such as had never happened to any of their relations or acquaintances” (982 -83). 36

Part III: Decline and Death • The family feels persecuted, and Gregor, consequently, is

Part III: Decline and Death • The family feels persecuted, and Gregor, consequently, is increasingly neglected. • The half-hearted cleaning of his room by his mother, after weeks of sisterly neglect, causes a noisy family row, with the result that the charwoman takes over his care. She is not frightened of him, and, in fact, seems to have some friendliness towards him, referring to Gregor as “you old dung beetle” (984). 37

Part III: Decline and Death • Nevertheless, Gregor’s room becomes filled with spare furniture

Part III: Decline and Death • Nevertheless, Gregor’s room becomes filled with spare furniture and various items haphazardly placed there by his family, as one of the rooms in the flat has been let to lodgers. • Notice that Gregor almost stops eating entirely, while Kafka emphasizes the food being prepared and eaten by the “[t]hree serious gentlemen” (985). 38

Part III: Decline and Death • “It seemed remarkable to Gregor that among the

Part III: Decline and Death • “It seemed remarkable to Gregor that among the various noises coming from the table he could always distinguish the sound of their masticating teeth, as if this were a sign to Gregor that one needed teeth in order to eat, and that with toothless jaws even of the finest make one could do nothing. ‘I’m hungry enough, ’ said Gregor sadly to himself, ‘but not for that kind of food. How these lodgers are stuffing themselves, and here am I dying of starvation!’” (985 -86). 39

Part III: Decline and Death • In another crucial scene, Grete plays the violin

Part III: Decline and Death • In another crucial scene, Grete plays the violin in the kitchen, and Gregor is certain that this is the first time that he has heard the instrument since his metamorphosis. • The lodgers invite her to come into the living room, where they spend their evenings, in order to play for them. 40

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor, “owing to the amount of dust which

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor, “owing to the amount of dust which lay thick in his room and rose into the air at the slightest movement, [. . . is] covered with dust; fluff and hair and remnants of food trailed with him, caught on his back and along his sides; his indifference to everything was much too great for him to turn on his back and scrape himself clean on the carpet, as once he had done several times a day. And in spite of his condition, no shame deterred him from advancing a little over the spotless floor of the living room” (986). 41

Part III: Decline and Death • “To be sure, no one was aware of

Part III: Decline and Death • “To be sure, no one was aware of him. The family was entirely absorbed in the violinplaying; the lodgers, however, [. . . ] had soon retreated to the window, [. . . ] making it more than obvious that they had been disappointed in their expectation of hearing good or enjoyable violin-playing, that they had more than enough of the performance and only out of courtesy suffered a continued disturbance of their peace” (986 -87). 42

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor, however, is certain that his sister is

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor, however, is certain that his sister is playing beautifully, and he “crawled a little farther forward and lowered his head to the ground so that it might be possible for his eyes to meet hers. Was he an animal that music had such an effect upon him? He felt as if the way were opening before him to the unknown nourishment he craved” (987). 43

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor is responding on a very primitive level

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor is responding on a very primitive level to the music, but there is something else going on as well: • “He was determined to push forward till he reached his sister, to pull at her skirt and so let her know that she was to come into his room with her violin, for no one here appreciated her playing as he would appreciate it. . . ” 44

Part III: Decline and Death • “[H]is sister should need no constraint, she should

Part III: Decline and Death • “[H]is sister should need no constraint, she should stay with him of her own free will; she should sit beside him on the couch, bend down her ear to him and hear him confide that he had the firm intention of sending her to the School of Music, and that, but for his mishap, last Christmas— surely Christmas was long past? —he would have announced it to everybody without allowing a single objection. After this confession his sister would be so touched that she would burst into tears, and Gregor would then raise himself to her shoulder and kiss her on the neck” (987). • What is the significance of this dream? 45

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor’s vision is soon shattered when the lodgers

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor’s vision is soon shattered when the lodgers spot him, and Gregor’s father, interestingly, tries to block the view of the lodgers and drive them towards their room. Unsurprisingly, the trio immediately gives notice to quit the flat. 46

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor’s sister announces, with finality, that “things can’t

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor’s sister announces, with finality, that “things can’t go on like this. [. . . ] I won’t utter my brother’s name in the presence of this creature, and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it. We’ve tried to look after it and to put up with it as far as is humanly possible, and I don’t think anyone could reproach us in the slightest” (988). 47

Part III: Decline and Death • It does not take long for the father

Part III: Decline and Death • It does not take long for the father and sister to conclude that Gregor cannot understand them, and Grete insists that “[i]f this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can’t live with such a creature and he’d have gone away on his own accord. Then we wouldn't have any brother, but we’d be able to go on living and keep his memory in honour. As it is, this creature persecutes us, drives away our lodgers, obviously wants the whole apartment to himself and would have us all sleep in the gutter” (989). • Painfully, Gregor makes his way back to his room, only to hear the door immediately being shut and bolted by his sister. 48

Part III: Decline and Death • “The rotting apple in his back and the

Part III: Decline and Death • “The rotting apple in his back and the inflamed area around it, all covered with soft dust, already hardly troubled him. He thought of his family with tenderness and love. The decision that he must disappear was one that he held to even more strongly than his sister, if that were possible. In this state of vacant and peaceful meditation he remained until the tower clock struck three in the morning. The first broadening of light in the world outside the window entered his consciousness once more. Then his head sank to the floor of its own accord and from his nostrils came the last faint flicker of his breath” (990). 49

Part III: Decline and Death • In the morning, the charwoman finds Gregor’s dead,

Part III: Decline and Death • In the morning, the charwoman finds Gregor’s dead, dried-up body. • While Grete points out that Gregor must have starved to death, the family seems relieved, and Grete joins her family (invited by her mother “with a tremulous smile” [991]) without looking back. • The charwoman opens the window. It is the end of March, and thus the beginning of spring. 50

Part III: Decline and Death • Nabokov notes, in his famous lecture on this

Part III: Decline and Death • Nabokov notes, in his famous lecture on this text, that after Gregor’s death it is never “father” and “mother” but only Mr. and Mrs. Samsa. • Mr. Samsa dismisses the lodgers in no uncertain terms – much to their surprise – “and as if a burden had been lifted from them [the family] went back into their apartment” (992). 51

Part III: Decline and Death • The family decides to “spend this day in

Part III: Decline and Death • The family decides to “spend this day in resting and going for a stroll; they had not only deserved such a respite from work, but absolutely needed it” (992). • Should we read this passage in straightforward terms, or as tinged with irony? 52

Part III: Decline and Death • The charwoman reveals that the body has already

Part III: Decline and Death • The charwoman reveals that the body has already been disposed of, and though this briefly unsettles the Samsas, they are soon unified again: • “[T]hey all three left the apartment together, which was more than they had done for months, and went by trolley into the open country outside the town. The trolley, in which they were the only passengers, was filled with warm sunshine. Leaning comfortably back in their seats they canvassed their prospects for the future, and it appeared on closer inspection that these were not at all bad, for the jobs they had got, which so far they had never really discussed with each other, were all three admirable and likely to lead to better things later on. . . ” 53

Part III: Decline and Death • “The greatest immediate improvement in their condition would

Part III: Decline and Death • “The greatest immediate improvement in their condition would of course arise from moving to another house; they wanted to take a smaller and cheaper but also better situated and more easily run apartment than the one they had, which Gregor had selected. While they were thus conversing, it struck both Mr. and Mrs. Samsa, almost at the same moment, as they became aware of their daughter's increasing vivacity, that in spite of all the sorrow of recent times, which had made her cheeks pale, she had bloomed into a buxom girl. . . ” 54

Part III: Decline and Death • “They grew quieter and half unconsciously exchanged glances

Part III: Decline and Death • “They grew quieter and half unconsciously exchanged glances of complete agreement, having come to the conclusion that it would soon be time to find a good husband for her. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and excellent intentions that at the end of their journey their daughter sprang to her feet first and stretched her young body” (993). 55

Part III: Decline and Death • How do you interpret the ending? What does

Part III: Decline and Death • How do you interpret the ending? What does it all mean? 56

Part III: Decline and Death • One can read this ending in a fairly

Part III: Decline and Death • One can read this ending in a fairly straightforward manner – the story began with Gregor’s changed body, and it ends with Grete’s. • Now a “good-looking, shapely” woman, she is ready to be married off by her eager parents, who view her as a commodity to benefit them. 57

Part III: Decline and Death • Similarly, if we view the parents as parasitical,

Part III: Decline and Death • Similarly, if we view the parents as parasitical, we might suggest that, now that they have wrung all of the life out of their son, they are ready to move on to their daughter – perhaps even to “eat” her! 58

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor seems to have been by far the

Part III: Decline and Death • Gregor seems to have been by far the most caring and compassionate individual in the home. Now that he has gone, the fact that Grete is described more as animal than human being might cause us to wonder if there is any humanity left in the Samsas at all. 59

SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE • The Apple: Knowledge and fall from grace • Hospital: Where Gregor

SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE • The Apple: Knowledge and fall from grace • Hospital: Where Gregor could get help but unattainable (society vs. individual) • Music: Universal communication • The Lodgers: Lives are governed by 60 the pursuit of money

 • Charwoman: The outsider not affected by society’s rules • Marriage: the “norms”

• Charwoman: The outsider not affected by society’s rules • Marriage: the “norms” of society & domestication • Number Three: Religious metaphor –is Gregor a Christ figure? • Door to Gregor’s Room: Gregor’s desire to isolate himself/ society has locked him out 61