Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”

Franz Kafka was born to Jewish parents in 1883. He was born in Prague an area occupied by the Germans, the Czech, and the Jews. The Germans were favored by the law and the Czech who made up the largest percentage of the population did not take this favoritism well. Kafka learned German and thus earned the status of double minority for being a German-speaking Jew. This status had a great influence on his life because the three communities in Prague had separate schools, theaters, societies, newspapers, and so on. On the other hand, in Franz Kafka’s story, Metamorphosis the setting is similar to Prague and Gregor Samsa the protagonist has a lot in common with the author Franz Kafka. This paper will assess Kafka’s relationships and personal-professional frustrations with those the author creates for Gregor.

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Kafka’s relationship with his father is autocratic. His father Hermann Kafka was overbearing. Hermann failed to appreciate his son’s talents. The two had a strained relationship that made Franz Kafka develop personality problems that made him lack self-confidence. He also developed anxiety and lifelong guilt.

His father was brought up in poverty and thus he lacked the comforts in life but dreamt of achieving them one day. He worked very hard to have a better life and demanded so much from his son because he wanted him to be successful as well. The high standards that Hermann set for his son made him develop a fear of not being good enough and thus a disappointment. Kafka’s awe and love for his father made him feel abandoned because his mother often sided with his father. He took comfort in his sister Ottla.

Similarly, in Metamorphosis, Kafka’s relationship compares with that of Gregor Samsa. Gregor is the oldest child. He had a sister called Grete with whom he had a special relationship and she was the one who took care of him when he turned into a bug. He did not have a proper relationship with his parents and their relationship got worse when he turned into a bug. He always felt guilty and could not leave his work even though he wanted to regain his freedom. This is because he had the responsibility of taking care of the family. The parents isolated him and he was locked in his room and fed on leftovers. The family dehumanized him by removing his furniture and possessions from his room.

Kafka had sexual relationships with different women during his life. Some of his acquaintances were a Czech shop girl, older women, and prostitutes. He derived pleasure from these relationships and at the same time was uncomfortable with them. In Metamorphosis Gregor has framed a woman’s picture in a frame indicating his interest in the opposite sex. Nonetheless, Kafka and Gregor do not develop meaningful relationships with the women.

Kafka found employment at an Italian insurance company after he completed his studies. He worked long hours in his job and did not have time to do the things he enjoyed doing such as writing. However, he had to hold on to this job for a while because he was providing for his family. Being the eldest and only son, he had a responsibility to cater to the family’s financial needs. Likewise, Gregor, a traveling salesman had to work very hard to cater to his family. His work was demanding too as he expresses “O God,” he thought, “what a demanding job I’ve chosen! Day in, day out, on the road” (Kafka 2). Gregor wished if he could have a chance to sit down in an inn and rest just as other traveling salesmen did. He hoped to quit after paying his parent’s debt to his boss. On the other hand, Kafka quit his first job within the year (Nowak and Ruch, p. 1).

Both Kafka and Gregor took time from their work due to sickness. Kafka metamorphosed and delved more into his writing, and he came up with some brilliant works. He also moved away from his home and for the first time, he was able to escape. Gregor on the other hand, escaped from his stressful job when he became a bug. After so many years, he did not have the financial responsibility and his family had to take care of him even though he still felt he did not deserve their service. Kafka and Gregor faced challenges when their profession was shaken by the circumstances that befell them and the relationships they had changed with their families and friends changed.

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Lastly, in the story Metamorphosis, Kafka writes about the challenges of family relationships and the workplace. He shows the frustrations and alienation some people go through both at work and at home. They sacrifice so much for the family and often neglect their personal needs. Kafka’s life as reflected by Gregor shows the realities of life.

References

  1. Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
  2. Nowak, Jeff and Ruch, Allen. The most fortunate and unfortunate of men Kafka biogragraphy. 2004.
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