m Metamorphosis essaysThe Metamorphosis as Social Criticism
Society often works against itself in one way or another. In
reading Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka one could presume the work to be a
social criticism. Throughout this story Kafka shows how society can be
split into different sections, with Gregor representing the working man at
the time, and his family representing all the other kinds of people
throughout society.
This story shows how Gregor has worked for his family in the past,
and how he subconsciously thought he had control over them. He works at an
intolerable job of hard work to support his family, and gets little
respect for this. It shows what happens to him when he stops working for
them, he transforms into a huge cockroach. He is rejected by his family,
and he is not cared for properly which results in his death. Following
Gregors death is a gleeful ending, which eventually implies that the cycle
will be repeated, though this time through his sister.
It is apparent even in the first sentence “As Gregor awoke one
morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into a gigantic
insect” (P862, Ph1) that Kafka meant something underneath the surface.
Awakening from uneasy dreams could mean awakening from an uneasy, labored
life by quitting it all. His transformation could mean how society can
compare him to a cockroach for his giving up on them and treat him as if
he was less than human.
Gregor has obviously had a life of hard labor at a job that he
finds to be unbearable; as he states “Oh, God what an exhausting job I’ve
picked” (P862 Ph4). He feels that he must work though. He feels that his
family is incapable of supporting themselves. His mother has asthma, his
father is old, and his sister is very young. As it turns out though, in
the end, his family was perfectly capable of supporting themselves; In
fact his father had been saving up money the entire time. In reading
this first portion of the story one would be led to believe that Kafka is
making a statement of how the working man feels that his life, and others
would be in jeopardy if he were to stop working. Maybe Kafka is
representing Gregors family as the lower class.
Once Gregor gives up working for his family he finds himself
transformed into a big ugly cockroach, the lowest form of life. It’s
clear why gregor gave up working for his family when he turns the key to
the door and says “They should have called out keep going, turn that
key!'” (P868 Ph3) what he needed were words of encouragement, words he
never received. This could plausibly be a metaphor that the working
people in society are way overworked, and get very little respect for it.
It is obvious that Gregor appears disgusting to others that see
him when the chief clerk runs away at first glimpse of him. This is his
punishment for not working. His grotesque figure represents what he thinks
people think of him. In a way this is saying, When the working man, stops
working he believes people will very him as a disgusting figure one that
can do nothing but live off of others.
At this point Gregor’s position, and respect in the household
decrease rapidly to a point of near nonexistence. He can’t even talk to
people, this is established earlier on in the story when The chief clerk
says “that was no human voice” (P867 Ph4). His family locks him in his
room, and feeds him old rotting food. They completely desert him, and try
to move on with their lives. Gregor at this point experiences feelings of
lost empathy, and longs to communicate with others. This could represent
the working mans fear of poverty, it has been established that when the
working man quits he becomes a disgusting creature in his and everyone’s
eyes; now that’s not the main fear in the working man, it’s loss of being
cared for, and loss of communication in being poor, dependent, and
powerless. His not being able to speak represents the lower class man’s
being silenced. How his family gives up on him, and deserts him is how
society gives up on the poor, or the homeless.
Throughout Gregors life as a cockroach, he finds himself to be
treated more like an animal each day, like being served “a piece of cheese
that he would have called uneatable”(P873 Ph1). He even finds himself to
be acting like an animal, “he quickly devours the cheese”(P873 Ph1). He
appears to have given up on life. He is not cared for properly, and
eventually withers away, and dies. This shows how society doesn’t really
care about the working man. In fact, it shows how society couldn’t care
less if he died, in fact it would brighten up their day. Even his own
mother says “‘now thanks be to god'” (P890 Ph2) upon first discovery of
the body.
In the end though, after Gregors death the mood suddenly changes
from gloom to glory, a surprising twist of what one would think. The mood
is peaceful, they family goes out on a stroll. Everyone appears to be in
a good mood. The double twist is when Gregors father looks at Grete, and
thought of the kind of man she could marry. This is actually a funny
ending because it shows just how horrible Gregors family really is. All
they can think of is who will fill Gregors shoes as a care taker for them.
This is symbolic of what society thinks of the average working man. They
use you, abuse you, throw you away, and then ask for seconds; “It was like
a confirmation of their new dreams, and excellent intentions that at the
end of their long journey their daughter sprang to her feet and stretched
her young body”(P892 Ph1).
I believe that the overall moral to the story is how society
should give much more credit to people who keep the world running, and
that life should not be all about work, silence, and punishment. I also
think it is about society’s moralities, and how they have reduced to such
a despicable level, I think Kafka cries change.
It should now be clear that Kafka shows how society can be split
into into different sections, with Gregor representing the working man at
the time, and his family representing all the other kinds of people
throughout society. Society often works against itself in one way or
another.