I read The Metamorphosis at the beginning of the year. It was for a German class where we had to read classics in German from a German author. In the end, it was way too hard for me to read in German, and I read it in French (my mother language). And I didn’t enjoy the story. It was way too strange for me.
I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
The short story is about a salesman, Gregor Samsa, who wakes up late for his train one day. He then realizes that he has been turned into a giant insect overnight. When he realizes that he will be late for his train, he tries, in vain, to get out of his room and go to the train station.
His family, mother, father, and sister start to get anxious. Because he is not coming out of his room and won’t let anyone come in, not even his boss. As the story goes on, his family grows more and more tired of Gregor’s condition.
He was the breadwinner of the family, the only one who worked and earned a salary. But when he turned into an insect, he couldn’t work anymore. And he had to quit his job. So his father and mother had to get a job to win money for the family. After some time, even his sister, who loves to play the violin and who Gregor was going to send to the conservatory, has to get a job. Because both her parents can’t earn enough. Towards the end, the family even gets tenants to pay their rent.
Through his transformation, Gregor’s parents treat him like he was less than nothing. Only his sister cares for him and pays him a little attention. But even she, in the end, can’t stand Gregor anymore. She grows more and more tired of Gregor’s behavior. One day, the tenants in the house find Gregor in the room next to them, who they thought was empty, and flee without even paying any rent. It is then that Gregor realizes that he can only bring misery and suffering to his family. And he decides to let himself die.
The main thing that startled me with the short story isn’t Gregor’s transformation into a giant insect. It is the way his family treats him. For years, all he has done was work to pay off his father’s debts and allow his family to live comfortably. He worked all the time, even though he hated his job. The only one that shows a little kindness and warmth towards Gregor is his sister.
When I read the book, I had to propose a debate for my class with one of the main topics, so I asked them if they thought that Gregor’s transformation was real or just an allegory for something else. I included most of my class, though it was an allegory of the 20th century when the human side started not to matter anymore. All compassion is gone. It is just what we can do and bring to others that is important, not who we are.
Kafka lived during a time of significant changes, some bad, some good, but he had the same view on all those progress. For him, they dehumanized society. It is an allegory of the way modern society treats every human being. Being kind to them when they are useful and rejecting them when they are not. There is also a glimmer of hope in the character of the sister who tends to Gregor, but even she, in the end, doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.