Franz Kafka’s Life Experiences In His Novel Metamorphosis
Kafka was one of the renowned writers of the 20th century; he was born in the year 1883 to a Jewish family that was acquainted with the German language family and died in the year 1924. He was mainly focused on novels and short stories. He was not a full-time writer, but he was a lawyer by profession, employed in Insurance company and wrote during his free time. Kafka has been celebrated for his various works and Metamorphosis is one of them. Metamorphosis is a short story that employs surrealism, Kafka in this story depicts a society that has a human-bug as the character, and Kafka brought it through the main character- Gregor. The short-story depicts a society in surrealism, but it is identical to the healthy community, for instance, Gregor lives with his family and has a daily routine, but in this case, he is the breadwinner of the family, his father is sick, and his sister is in school. Just as the other works of Greg as the protagonist, experiences surrealistic predicaments. The story ends when Greg starves himself to death, which is not the expected ending of a story, but as soon as he dies then his family becomes better, his father is not anymore, his mother does not have asthma and sister is working and ready for marriage (Kafka 2013). The question remains if Kafka was depicting his experience through such a piece of work or is just fiction?
Franz Kafka, as mentioned before, was of German origin and all of his work was written in German and later translated into other languages or better yet English. The original title for this book was “Die Verwandlung.” Country of publishing is the modern-day Czech Republic, published in the year 1915 (Max et al. 1960). The publishing was through contract print publishing which was done by Kurt Wolff. The target audience was not direct by mainly it was adults, who at least worked mostly because the main message was to the people who forget their own needs and spend their whole lives working so that they can please others. Metamorphosis falls under the literal genre of modernist fiction, mainly because Kafka was one of the authors that tried a new way of writing such as surrealism and fantasy targeting adults, at the same passing through the message. Technically the experimenting and expression that Kafka utilises are what qualifies it to be in the Modernist genre, that is the late modernist.
This literature work by the author Kafka was inspired by his own life, the main characters are the family members of Gregor Samsa, which this would have been representing his own family, and Gregor Samsa, the protagonist as Kafka. The workplace, the family and the reaction to the challenges his family was going through are the same as those which Gregor was going through in the short story. Gregor turning into bug might be a way to express, how Kafka maybe felt unworthy to the society and the work. Since bugs are despised by people and people, view bugs as worthless. The ending of the novel might represent the hopelessness in Kafka’s life, and maybe him dying may make things better, as seen in the short story when Gregory died, everything changed to be better. Frank was born to a Jewish family that spoke German, which affected who he grew up to be, Frank through metamorphosis gives people the chance to create their own identities and not be what the society ant you to be. Hence giving Gregory the alter ego of being a bug. Alienation and Isolation are the major themes in this piece of work, mainly because at the end, Gregory dies, and everything does from best to worst (Sokel 1983).
Gregory is the protagonist of this short story. The whole story is based on his perception about the society and the family. This was a way through which Kafka was expressing his view of real life. Representing it through the character of Gregory, although not directly revealed, Gregory is the main protagonist because he is the one who wakes up as the Bug. The antagonists, in this case, are Gregory and his father, just as in real life or other works the father and the son are the antagonists.
The conflict is the fact that Gregory turned into a bug and the family had to look for other ways of finding money mainly because Gregory was the breadwinner. The fear of a human-sized bug is an issue as only Grete was the only one brave enough to face this creature. The fact that his father wanted to get rid of him created the conflict which drove Gregory to the edge, that led him to starve himself to death, which was the resolution. The work is also literal criticism that analyses this work; the first one being Biographical Criticism- that means understanding the life of Kafka will help, in understanding the piece of art. As discussed before, Gregory, in almost all aspects, represents the life of Kafka. The second being Psychological Criticism – based on Sigmund Freud theories, that states human behaviour can be expressed or changed through the unconscious and wish-fulfilment (Diana et al. 1995). In this case, the analysis of Gregory being a bug directly reflects on how human despise bugs and hence representing unworthiness, in addition to the fact Kafka was trying to send the message that, people can take any form they want.
Kafka, as a Jewish writer and through writing metamorphosis, has influenced a lot of people and writers. For instance, the author Harriet L. Parent who write the critical Essay; The Jewish Essence of Franz Kafka that focuses on Kafka’s parental and religious struggles. It is evident through the works of Kafka it is evident that he had these struggles and authors such as Paremt has looked into the parental, social and religious aspects of the works of Kafka such as Metamorphosis, Paremt focuses on the discussion of the impact of the Kafka’s works and most importantly through the surreal fiction The Metamorphosis. The Jewish Essence of Franz Kafka concentrated on the religious implications of religion on the life of Kafka when he was a boy and how the religious impacts entered Metamorphosis. Parmet discusses and concludes that maybe if Kafka were not a Jew, then we would not have Metamorphosis. It is an Essay; hence, it does not have characters, themes, but it is clear that it is still influential up to this date.
In conclusion, It is clear that Kafka utilised his life experiences, parental and life struggles in general to express his sentiments. Some writers and artist find ways of coping with matters that are haunting them. Metamorphosis looks like one of those literary works that the author was trying to communicate and connect with the audience, which is what Kafka did. Hence it is clear that Kafka was depicting his life experiences through Metamorphosis but also used fiction to spice things up.
- Kafka, F. (2013). The Metamorphosis. Modern Library Classics.
- Holland, Norman N. ‘REALISM AND UNREALISM KAFKA’S’ METAMORPHOSIS’.’ Modern Fiction Studies (1958): 143-150.
- Brod, Max, and G. Humphreys-Roberts. Franz Kafka: a biography. New York: Schocken Books, 1960.
- X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia’s Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, Sixth Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), pages 1790-1818.
- Sokel, W. H. (1983). From Marx to Myth: The Structure and Function of Self-Alienation in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The Literary Review, 26(4), 485-496.
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