Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis by Aarna Tyagi
Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" is a haunting tale that explores the dehumanizing effects of modern society. The novella tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who wakes up one day to find himself transformed into a giant insect. Through Gregor's experiences, Kafka suggests that modern society places too much emphasis on productivity and material success, at the expense of individual human needs and relationships.
Kafka's writing is precise and dreamlike, drawing the reader into a world that is both familiar and surreal. The novella's opening line immediately sets the tone for the strange and unsettling events that are to follow: "One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." Through the use of this surreal imagery, Kafka portrays Gregor's transformation as a metaphor for the dehumanization that occurs when people are reduced to nothing more than their ability to produce and consume. Kafka's description of Gregor's new form emphasizes the alienation that he experiences, as he struggles to reconcile his insect body with his human mind: "It was not a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table - Samsa was a traveling salesman - and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer."
As Gregor tries to adapt to his new form, he becomes increasingly isolated from the people around him, including his own family. Kafka's portrayal of the Samsa family's reaction to Gregor's transformation highlights the way in which people can become ruthless and callous in pursuit of their own interests, even at the expense of those closest to them. Gregor's father, for example, physically attacks him when he sees his new form, and his sister Grete becomes increasingly distant as she becomes more concerned with her own future. Kafka's commentary on the dehumanizing effects of modern society is particularly evident in his portrayal of Gregor's work life. As a traveling salesman, Gregor is constantly on the move, disconnected from any sense of stability or community. His work is his entire identity, and when he is no longer able to perform it due to his transformation, he becomes utterly lost: "What's happened to me?" he thought. It was no dream. His room, a regular human bedroom, only a little on the small side, lay quiet between the four familiar walls. Over the table, on which an unpacked collection of sample cloth goods was spread out - Samsa was a traveling salesman - hung the picture which he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame."
Throughout "Metamorphosis," Kafka suggests that modern society places too much emphasis on productivity and material success, at the expense of individual human needs and relationships. As Gregor's isolation and alienation deepen, he comes to understand the true nature of the society in which he lives.
Aarna Tyagi (she/her) is a fourteen-year-old writer and avid reader who currently resides in Long Island, New York. She enjoys playing discordant yet soothing chords on the piano, reading books, writing poems, and listening to music that speaks to her soul. Her favorite musical artists are Mitski, Radiohead, Lana Del Rey, Cocteau Twins, and Men I Trust. If you don't catch her listening to music, she's probably reading poetry by Ocean Vuong and Sappho or novels by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Audre Lorde, and Franz Kafka.