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Classics Revisited: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Franz Kfka Metamorphosis

What if you wake up one morning to find yourself transformed into an enormous insect? What if your life suddenly takes a frighteningly different turn?

Alienation of the Condemned

Kafka’s classic is a dark fantasy with some absurdist humor. Metamorphosis is an apparently simple but bizarre story, which works on so many levels that no one’s too sure how to interpret it. But the primary theme is alienation of an individual in a society that is too afraid to accept changes. Metamorphosis would remind you Camus’ The Outsider, which deals with the same theme.

Gregor’s (The protagonist) metamorphosis isolates him from the rest of the society, and he is no longer a part of the established system. A psychological barrier separates him from his family and the people around him. However, it’s later revealed that his metamorphosis and consequent alienation is an extension of a long term feeling.

Anarchy in the Universe 

The cause of Gregor’s predicament is never explained. A seemingly fair, dutiful fellow turns into a giant insect for no apparent reason. Kafka strongly suggests the existence of a chaotic universe, which functions in an illogical and chaotic manner. The absurdity of life is highlighted with surprisingly effective symbolism.

In Search of an Existentialist life

Pre-metamorphosis: Samsa’s  life is miserable because family, society, and duties are most important to him and in the process he neglects his own existence. He is little more than a machine.

Post-metamorphosis: Samsa focuses too much on himself and is cut-off from the society. His life lacks purpose and becomes absurd.

The poor fellow struggles to live a meaningful and balanced life; so eventually he ceases to exist. The existentialist philosophers would say Samsa was not an an acting, feeling, living individual but someone with confused priorities in a world that might look frighteningly meaningless.

You, Me & Samsa

Readers can easily identify with the trapped, estranged, and lonely Gregor Samsa. If Dostoevsky had written an allegorical work of speculative fiction, he couldn’t have portrayed a more embittered protagonist with a more realistic agony. At the end of the day, are we not feeling a bit like Kafka’s Samsa or Camus’s Meursault?

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