How the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Portrays Alienation

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Feelings of alienation and rejections have universal implications. Nearly everyone experiences some form of denial in unique ways in their lifetime, and in most cases, families contribute to such feelings either knowingly or unknowingly. In Metamorphosis, Kafka uses manipulation and distortion of his primary character Gregor Samsa in the story to bring out the theme of rejection and alienation. In this paper, I have the opinion that Kafka frequently uses alienation in his book to sympathize with the fact that Samsa has turned into a hideous creature, symbolizing change and how the character has to do things differently with his new body. I also argue that Gregor, in some form, would have survived after his first change if he had had the love and support of his family.

Gregor’s transformation into a dung beetle assumes the metaphoric aspect of his human life. Samsa’s family gives him harsh treatments compared to a worthless insect by making him complement family demands through trying duties as a commercial traveler. Since Samsa takes family responsibilities, his family recognizes him as long as he can do it. Kafka mentions that the family had gotten used to reaping from his sweat that the money as gratefully received and gladly remitted, but there was no uprush of warm feeling involved (Kafka 16). Samsa’s family is only grateful for his support but do not genuinely appreciate his efforts and only tolerate him as long as he can meet their demands. The moment Gregor turns into a dung beetle, the reality dawns the family that they have lost their provider, and henceforth, Gregor becomes a repulsive eye to them, which alienates him further from the family. At the same time, such feelings of alienation are what Gregor communicates when he transforms the primary character into a worthless insect to show how Samsa’s family and the world view his human existence (Arnab 39).

Gregor applauds the first arrangement and cannot differentiate between the doctor and the locksmith. However, as he coughs, it turns to be a different thing as even his voice had dramatically changed. Right on the floor as he tries to open the door, Kafka notes that his parents and the manager noticed his efforts as he used his tiny limbs that had sticky stuff and then turned the key on the lock with his mouth without real teeth. Surprisingly, the reactions from his father and the manager express even further the theme of isolation and abandonment. That kind of inhumanity does not only surprise an ordinary reader but also the author who laments that “but they all should’ve called out to him, including his father and mother, ‘Come on, Gregor,’ they should’ve shouted, ‘keep going, keep working on the lock (9).’ This act, like many others in the book, shows reflect the heights of alienation Gregor’s family had built against him.

Kafka does not only uses the distortion of realities to bring out the theme of alienation but also exposes the subject through Samsa’s father’s actions towards his son. Gregor further emphasizes the idea of isolation. The same acts of separation are seen in Grete’s activities. Grete had maintained an intimate relationship with Samsa until she finds out he had embraced a dung beetle traits. Grete’s attitude towards Samsa slowly changes. At the beginning of Samsa’s transformation, Grete takes care of him (Arnab 40). Still, as she learns that he would not change from the insect-like characters, she drifts from him consistently and progressively, and her considerations steadily dwindle. Grete’s neglect piles more pressure on Gregor to feel both secluded and rejected from the only family member who had in the past stood by him. When offering Gregor food, Grete decides to provide him with a whole menu from an old newspaper. It is only Grete who exhibits shreds of tenderness towards Gregor in his dung beetle state, and she tries to get him the food of his choice after he failed to consume the first meal. Grete proceeds to feed Gregor twice per day when his parents are asleep and makes it a deal between the two of them having concealed it from his parents (Arnab 40). However, the whole experience brings out the theme of alienation even further as it turns that only Grete takes care of Gregor and also keeps him off his parents.

Through the removal of Gregor’s furniture, Grete further dehumanizes him. She destroys Gregor’s last connection with the realities of the world by removing his furniture off his room. As Gregor notices that the removal of his furniture detaches his previous contact from the facts, he imagines that his properties should remain in the place and their previous positions (Arnab 40). In other words, the writer makes it clear that Gregor’s furniture gave him good feelings and that even if the furniture would hinder his movements, crawling back and forth would be a setback but an honest advantage. Gregor realizes that such last bunches of furniture remained his genuine connections to the realities of the world. Grete erases his final clusters of memories by taking his furniture and not anymore perceives him as a brother but more of a repulsive insect that lacks what it takes to be human (Arnab 40).

Consequently, she rejects him and ignores his humanity. It is such actions that alienate Gregor from the realities of the world to have feelings of rejection and isolation. Additionally, the writer dehumanizes Gregor to build the theme of alienation and rejection through the behavior of his father. During the first appearance to the family in a giant insect form, they meet him with disgust and rejection. Mr. Samsa, Gregor’s father, no longer takes Gregor for a son and ignores no chance to dehumanize him. The writer states that “Gregor’s father seized him with his right hand on the walking stick that the chief clerk had left behind on a chair, together with a hat and greatcoat, Gregor’s father snatched with his left hand a large newspaper from the dining table and had begun stomping his feet and flourishing the stick and he to get the newspaper to drive Gregor back into his room (16).” Kafka further narrates the father of Samsa does not have time to understand his son and that the more he behaved like an insect, the more he rattled. Kafka mentions that “no entreaty of Gregor’s availed was even understood, however humbly he bent his head his father only stamped on the floor the more loudly ( Kafka16).”

Gregor’s loneliness, which is the identity of the nature of his job, is proclaimed when he notices a slight itching on the upper end of his abdomen. The spot he realizes “was wholly covered with small white spots.” Still, he could not comprehend their meaning or identity.

Samsa had felt a little itch on the top of his abdomen. He slowly pushed himself on his back so that he could get closer to the bedpost so that Gregor could move his head a little more quickly, then Samsa finally found the itchy part, which was covered with small white spots everywhere (he didn’t know what to make of the spots), and wanted to feel the place with a leg ( Kafka1).

Contrary, Gregor is bothered about missing the train, and that suggests one of the many instances of self-reproaches that awaits him in life. Kafka indicates that Gregor became the boss’ minion who lacked intelligence and backbone and that further highlights the oppressive and demanding nature of his job (Arnab 41). Samsa’s career develops chasm between his mind and body, through which the main character gets to the trap of his metamorphosis.

When Gregor’s mother checks in, it is the moment that Gregor first has a link with the world of his metamorphosed body, which also suggests his alienation from his work, family, and at last, his identity. It is at that point that I get to learn about his separation because the rest of the stories reveal his alienation in a grim way, which can be seen as nightmarish. At such early stages, I get only the initial warnings. For instance, it shows that the change in his voice had been an indication of the onset of a chill, identical with the occupational illness of commercial travelers, which he did not doubt the least.

‘Mother, mother,’ said Gregor quietly and looked over towards her. The manager momentarily had disappeared entirely from his mind; by contrast, at the sight of the flowing coffee, he couldn’t stop himself snapping his jaws in the air a few times. At that, his mother screamed all over again, hurried from the table, and collapsed into the arms of his father, who was rushing towards her ( Kafka 12).

It is from that very onset that one notices that there is a disagreement between Gregor’s mind and his bodily parts. Gregor’s situation has alienated him from the family and the rest of the world, and that is evident when he gets up and fears mount on him that he would get late for work. As I find out, it is his job that kept Gregor so much glued and preoccupied that, in the end, deprived of him the liberties of social life. I noticed that nothing preoccupies Gregor’s head as the business. No wonder even in sickness, Samsa says, “You see, Mr. Manager, I am not pig-headed, and I am pleased to work. Traveling can be exhausting, but I couldn’t live without it “(Kafka, 10).

Gregor’s conversion into a dung beetle clearly shows Kafka’s uncertain perception towards the whole concept of the body. The gradual metaphorical alteration of Gregor’s body into an insect and his mind becoming that of a dung beetle shows the extent his mind and body are alienated. Gregor’s obsessions are manifested that even when he gets up with the induced disability, he still has the conviction that he will board the 7 o’clock train. Consequently, his self-disapproval as a man that lacks the backbone is manifested as he turns to be an estranged invertebrate (Zeeshan 5).

The author represents the gendered body, not through the ordinary, banal concept of female and male sexuality, but relies on the cultural ties that depict male and female sexuality on body behavior. Concerning active sexuality, it is only Gregor’s parents who know and partially hinted to his sister. Still, Gregor is excluded from the social connection, as portrayed by the use of newspapers in the story (Minar and Sutandio 124). Mr. Samsa reads the paper aloud and sometimes as a tool to sending Gregor back to his room, and subsequently, the boarders get hold of the paper as a sign of authority around the house. At the primary stages before Gregor loses conscious, he nurses a wound caused by an apple his father threw at him. Gregor almost suffered a primal moment of his mind. It is Gregor’s mother that shouts and pleads with his father to spare Gregor’s life by curling her hands around him in complete union (Minar and Sutandio 124). The writer notes that at the stage, Gregor’s power of sight gave way.

Mr. Samsa’s treatment of Gregor like an animal as he herds him back to the room does not only show how the young man is alienated from the family he loves but is also locked from the rest of the world outside. The moment Gregor assumes an insect’s behavior, his father cuts links with him and prevents him from meeting any other person. The reality dawns that Gregor has changed from humans, no matter the isolation, ill-treatment, and alienation from the rest of the world (Gale 64). Similarly, Gregor’s drastic alteration of appetite and human communication worsens his conditions as he is further alienated. His excitement begins to manifest as his changes occur, and notices his unusual behavior at the sight of bread and milk. Gregor disappoints Grete when he turns down the milk because that had been his favorite drink before his metamorphosis (Gale 64). Gregor’s present condition alienates him from human food or any other food he enjoyed in his previous life.

The author dehumanizes Gregor by altering his food desires and selections, and that further alienates him from his family, social life, and the entire human race subjecting him to a world of isolation. It is not only the appetite that turns to dung beetle-like, his vocal communication, and voice, as well as changes to that of an insect. When he attempts to explain his tardiness to his parents and chief clerk, Gregor’s words are no longer clear to his audience. Contrary, such words seem audible enough to him than before, maybe because his system has accustomed to such sounds (Prakash 182). I noticed that Gregor’s family does not make any effort to understand him as he no longer communicates in human terms, and that denies him the communicational connection with his family. In return, the family pushes Gregor out of their circles without concern and consideration as they only handle his situation by locking him off the rest of the people from all interactions and relations (Prakash 182). They neglected him to wonder in worthless circles of isolation to depict the image of a useless insect they perceived of him.

After getting to the end of the story, Gregor’s family is scared of his existence, and that prompts Grete, his sister, to address her parents, arguing that Gregor does not, in the real sense, exist in insect form. She says that “you must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we’ve believed it for so long is the root of all our trouble (Kafka 37).” The moment Gregor interferes with Grete’s violin instrumenting for the lodgers, whom the family expresses empathy for their son, he knocks her past at the helm of her patience. Grete does not in away want to deal with Gregor further, claiming that the giant creature living in her brother’s room is not Gregor as it does not have any human affection or concern for the family.

In their minds, Gregor has died, and any love towards him had been withdrawn and alienated. As such, when Gregor finally dies, the family exhibits no grief, and it only turns to be a sigh of relief to the family, and that is evident when the charwoman notifies the family about Gregor’s demise (Prakash 182). Ideally, the first action of the family, especially the desire to take a walk, explains even further their disregard and relief. As the charwoman tries to explain to Gregor’s parents how she disposed of his body, the family, significantly Grete and Mrs. Samsa, are glued to their letters in a manner depicting preoccupation. At the same time, Mr. Samsa, who prejudges that the charwoman intends to elaborate the ordeal, stops her with a decisive hand. In other words, the family had long dehumanized Gregor that they no longer showed any affection or concern to his predicaments (Prakash 182). Therefore, the family opts to carry on with the daily operations with no care for his death, again without mourning the worthless dung beetle they have assumed he has become.

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a fictitious story that exposes the revelations of human life and how family and friends can turn their back against a member who has long toiled for their excellent. As for the case of Gregor Samsa, who works tirelessly hard for the wellness of his family, the same family betrays him by deserting him at the hour of need. As such, Kafka does not reflect the happenings of contemporary society in his book but also uses it to condemn strongly other vices such as betrayal.

Works Cited

  1. Arnab Das “Kafka and the Metamorphosis of the Human Body” Quest Journals Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Science, vol. 07, no. 4, 2019, pp. 39-41. Retrieved from http://www.questjournals.org/jrhss/papers/vol7-issue4/H0704013941.pdf
  2. Gale, Cengage Learning. A Study Guide for Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
  3. Kafka, Franz. The metamorphosis. Modern Library Classics, 2013.
  4. Kohzadi, Hamedreza, Fatemeh Azizmohammadi, and Mahboubeh Nouri. “A study of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” Journal of Basic and Applied Science Research 2.2 (2012): 1600-1607.
  5. Minar, Karla Sharin, and Anton Sutandio. “Shame and alienation in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” Jurnal POETIKA 5.2 (2017): 123-133.
  7. Zeeshan, Malik Shahrukh. “Alienation, Franz Kafka Metamorphosis.”: 1-6
  8. Universal Isolation. www2.gvsu.edu/miller90/kafka.pdf.
  9. A Journal of Russian & Comparative Literary Studies. https://russian.uoc.ac.in/images/Doc/Assonance-No.18-2.pdf

Cite this paper

How the Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Portrays Alienation. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/how-the-metamorphosis-by-franz-kafka-portrays-alienation/

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