"The metamorphosis" by Kafka

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, Undergraduate April 1997

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Kafka wrote 'The Metamorphosis' in 1912, taking three weeks to compose the story. While he had expressed earlier satisfaction with the work, he later found it to be flawed, even calling the ending 'unreadable.' But whatever his own opinion may have been, the short story has become one of the most popularly read and analyzed works of twentieth-century literature. Isolation and alienation are at the heart of this surreal story of a man transformed overnight into a kind of beetle. In contrast to much of Kafka's fiction, 'The Metamorphosis' has not a sense of incompleteness. It is formally structured into three Roman-numbered parts, with each section having its own climax. A number of themes run through the story, but at the center are the familial relationships fundamentally affected by the great change in the story's protagonist, Gregor Samsa (Lawson 27).

While the father-son relationship in the story appears to be a central theme, the relationship between Gregor and his sister Grete is perhaps the most unique.

It is Grete, after all, with whom the metamorphosed Gregor has any rapport, suggesting the Kafka intended to lend at least some significance to their relationship. Grete's significance is found in her changing relationship with her brother. It is Grete's changing actions, feelings, and speech toward her brother, coupled with her accession to womanhood, that seem to parallel Gregor's own metamorphosis. This change represents her metamorphosis form adolescence into adulthood but at the same time it marks the final demise of Gregor. Thus a certain symmetry is to be found in 'The Metamorphosis': while Gregor falls in the midst of despair, Grete ascends to a self-sufficient, sexual woman.

It is Grete who initially tries conscientiously to do whatever she can for Gregor. She attempts to find out what he eats, to make him...