Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

May 24, 2010

Metamorphosis Plot summary (with spoilers): One day Gregor Samsa awakens to find that he has been changed into a large bug while he slept. His thoughts remain distinctly human, but his body, movements, and appetite now resemble those of a massive beetle or cockroach (Kafka doesn’t specify what kind of bug Gregor has become, nor do his descriptions of Gregor’s body precisely match those of any known insect).

For some reason, Gregor still thinks of going to work, but after struggling for more than an hour just to get out of bed, gives up that plan. His boss then comes to the house to berate him through the closed bedroom door, while his parents and sister Grete worry about what has happened. Gregor reveals his transformed self at the end of the chief clerk’s harangue, at which point that man runs screaming from the apartment while Gregor’s father shoos him back into his room with a stick.

Grete is the only one who seems to have any sympathy for Gregor’s plight. She considers the ways she can help him, and tries leaving a tray of decomposing food that she thinks a bug might like. Gregor, knowing that his appearance disgusts his family members, takes to hiding under one of the modern sofas in the living room and only emerging when no one else is around. Gregor then takes to crawling all over the floor and walls, prompting Grete, who sees the sticky tracks he makes, to try clearing the furniture out of the way to make the going a bit easier. It is on one of these excursions that Gregor’s mother finally catches sight of him, causing her to pass out from shock and fright. Gregor’s father can’t stand the situation anymore, so he pelts Gregor with apples, a piece of which gets lodged in Gregor’s back, causing immense pain and discomfort.

Because of the injury, Gregor no longer prowls about the house. Instead, he languishes in his room, where he eventually dies. His family, meanwhile, simply go about their business and emerge from the situation even better off than before Gregor’s transformation. Now all three have good jobs and they can afford to move out of the apartment to a better house in the countryside where they will focus on finding a good husband for Grete. Gregor, it seems, is immediately forgotten.

Liked:

  • As with any piece of classic literature that has been much discussed, I was glad to have finally read the novella so I can understand the frequent references to it that I come across in other readings.
  • I loved how Kafka attempted no explanations for Gregor’s metamorphosis. It just happened without any ostensible reason at all. Similarly, I liked how Kafka chose to have everyone simply accept the metamorphosis for what it was. No one questioned why the change occurred, they simply accepted that it did and moved on.
  • The novella was short and to the point, with no extraneous subplots or unnecessary scenes. This was a very quick read!

Disliked:

  • After reading some commentary on the novella, it appears that I got hold of a subpar translation. I wish I had thought to look for the best English translation before reading the book!

Rating:

Well obviously a story like Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is open to a myriad of interpretations. What does the story mean? What does Gregor’s metamorphosis symbolize? I don’t even know where to begin trying to figure this out on my own! At any rate, just from a bare-bones, basic reading I thought this was a decent, but not great, story. It was interesting and funny in parts, but not something that appeals to my usual tastes or something I want to spend a lot of time dwelling on. So at the risk of appearing low-brow and unintellectual, I give it 3 stars out of 5.

One Response to “Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka”

  1. I have always loved The Metamorphosis. I had to read it for both high school and college and it has never gotten old for me. Who would have thought a story about a man transforming into a huge bug would be so good!

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