Nikki's Reviews > The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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Dec 04, 13

bookshelves: philosophical, classic-literature, morbid-humor, favorites
Read in December, 2007

Gregor waking up one morning as a bug was a hilarious analogy of the effects an illness can have on someone, as well as on those who are close to him. Though the underlying story behind the hilarity of the analogy was anything but funny. I took it as more of a warning of what NOT to do when a loved-one is afflicted by some unfortunate disease or circumstance. I found his resistance of acknowledging to himself that he had become a bug in the beginning of the story to be very interesting. When he couldn't ignore his state any longer, he looked to others' reactions as to how he would look at his own condition. As he was trying to unlock his bedroom door to let his parents and supervisor in, he thought,

"If they took fright, then Gregor would have no further responsibility and could rest in peace. But if they took it all calmly, then he had no reason to get excited either and he could, if he hurried, actually be at the station by eight."

The reaction of those around him, and most importantly, those of his closest loved-ones, is what influenced his own attitude towards himself and his own state. He became completely ashamed of himself, striving to completely hide himself from view, though it took great effort and pain on his part to do so. His imprisonment, or rather, his confinement from the company of others, had a devastating affect upon his mental well-being and in turn, affected his physical well-being. Such a sad story and the fact that his family didn't feel remorse for their actions, but relief for themselves at his death... I don't believe Kafka was trying to say this is how humans are indubitably, even though most of them try to put on a show of galantry and higher morals. But that humans certainly can become some of the most self-serving, self-centered creatures on Earth. It serves as a warning to us all that while it is good to allow others to serve us from time to time, it is far better to always serve others. Gregor's family had all become accustomed to being taken care of by him. They didn't even mind that he was held in servitude to pay off their debts. This was made evident when the fact was made known that Gregor's father had been saving up extra money earned by Gregor, when it could have been used to pay for his freedom much sooner. Gregor, on the other hand, had been serving his family and loved them purely because of it. His first thought was not of himself, but of the hardship his condition would cause his family.

So lest we fall into such an ugly state of existence, let us guard ourselves by serving those we love, thus loving more those we serve.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)


Thank you for putting the Metamorphosis in such a context. It did not occur to me that it can have anything to do with mental illness. Now that you say so, I understand the peice much better. To be honest with you, I was having trouble with the peice. Thank you for clarifying many things.

Besa Kosova

message 2: by bup (new) - rated it 4 stars

bup You know, Nikki, I had the same feeling that we weren't supposed to feel good about the family's hope at the end, but I just couldn't help it. You're more perceptive than me; I didn't resent them for depending on Gregor before. I saw it as a tragedy - like any sudden incapacitation of the breadwinner. I felt for the family, who had a sort of learned helplessness, and learned that they could take care of themselves. Of course, I felt for Gregor, but if I were in that situation, I might consider death a noble way out for my family. Maybe I have too much "provider" programmed into me - I don't want my family to have to suffer if I become dead weight.

Anyway, cool story.

Nikki I completely agree. If I were in that situation, I wouldn't want to be dead weight for my family either. But I would loathe even more to be like his family. Even members of a family whose roles are not that of bread-winner, still have responsibilities toward the family. This family shirked their own roles (prior to Gregor's illness), which became evident in their attitudes when Gregor became ill.

When I was a little girl, my paternal Grandpa was so sick with arthritis and other ailments, that he couldn't move or do anything for himself. My parents had him move into the house with us. He had a special bed filled with sand, and air would push up through the sand to make him feel weightless on his bed. This helped significantly with his bed sores. He could hardly eat anything, and my father invented a nourishing egg-blended concoction that he was able to keep down. While my Grandpa's body was completely crippled and incapacitated, his mind was one of the most keen and brilliant I've ever known. So that he wouldn't get lonely, we kept his huge, special bed in our family room. My family's love grew even stronger for him after he moved in with us and my parents started taking care of him full-time. We loved talking to him. The younger children would read and sing songs to him but his knowledge, of what seemed to be boundless, fascinated us all. We learned a great deal from him. I know that my Grandpa worried about being "dead weight" for us, but nothing could be further from the truth and our fondest childhood memories still consist of the time he lived with us. Furthermore, he bore his painful ailments like a champion and I don't think anyone ever heard him complain. His selflessness, compassion, and intelligence remains the standard to which we, as now adults, still hold ourselves and reach for. By example, word, and deed, he helped us all become a little better than we were before and for that, we will always be indebted to him.

Whose do I think was the more difficult hardship: that of my family's or that of my Grandpa's? Definitely, without question, my Grandpa had it the hardest. I find it hard to imagine how hard it must have been for such a hard-working, brilliant man to allow himself to be cared for, a man who had triumphed over every trial in life, to find at the end, he would not be able to physically care for himself. But even in this, he learned and triumphed. This is why he is our hero and this is what shapes my thoughts on this book.

message 4: by Valeria (new)

Valeria Very insightful. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story :-)

Márcio Great review, Nikki. Thanks.

Elijah I had no idea it was an analogy for the subconscious disgust people have over their own chronically sick loved ones. Thank you for making it so beautiful.

Ajoerg16 I appreciate your feelings for the book, although i found the book very confusing.

J.J. Rodeo I had a completely different understanding of the book's message. I felt that Kafka is mocking Gregor's selflessness. Metamorphosis is a sick story that shows that it's stupid to sacrifice yourself for others, even for your family, because they are selfish; they abuse you when you are useful, and then don't give a shit about you when you are useless. (Your grandpa was useful, because he entertained you and provided you with wisdom. So it's not like poor Gregor, who needed help, but couldn't give anything in return.)

Heather Crawford Thank you for sharing your insight. The book took on a whole new meaning after I read your review. I felt the same disgust for the family when I read it and horror that in the end they're thankful for his death because it bought them freedom, something Gregor's life before was spent working towards. Very sad. :(

message 10: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Love your review! And your personal story ! Thanks for sharing

Erika After reading your review the story makes a lot more sense. Thanks!!

message 12: by Jae (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jae I'm in the middle of the story and just discovered the dad had being hoarding money. To me it was a big development in the book as it shows how little respect the man held for Gregor. And at the same time indicating Gregor was exceptionally kind hearted or blissfully simple for his reaction that is family would b ok regardless of being used.
I am of two minds of the author's intentions. That he is either creating a totally unrealistic world ( ie he woke up after a night on the town still inebriated and wondered what it would b like to b a bug). Or he really wanted to bring a message across of humanity and humility. That no matter how disregarded or used or isolated u r made to feel don't b angry with people but instead think of them kindly so as not to change ur inner spirit.
Whichever I think it's a great book so far

message 13: by Alan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alan Great review. I had very similar thought as I read the story this time. When I read it earlier this did not occur. I guess I sense my own and my parents mortality now. Sigh!

message 14: by Tonia (new) - added it

Tonia Very nice review...thank you for sharing :)

Carlos "Gregor waking up one morning as a bug was a hilarious analogy of the effects an illness can have on someone".

Damn, I loved that!

Catherine i understood the novel in a completely different way:
in my opinion gregor before his metamorphosis is helb back by society. He has to work for somebody he dislikes because he wants to pay off his parents' debts( maybe he only wants to pay them to make his family care for him more) and he is not able to be himself. in german there is an expression of the crawling insect that tries to gain a higher place in hierarchy and thats exactly what gregor is trying. He wants to be socially accepted.

His metamorphosis is an escape of society's rules. He no longer holds responsibility to care for his family, to go to work etc.
But the first page's metamorphosis is not the only one.
Gregor changes in the course of the novel more than just outwardly. He loses his humanity and in the end his sister ( he loves grete in an almost incestual way) doesnt regard him as a human being or far less as her brother anymore.
Grete herself changes together with the entire family constellation. Grete was seen as useless while gregor earned the family living but gregors metamorphosis gives her the chance to take action and responsibility by caring for her brother. She feeds him and cleans his room and when her mother attempts to do this, she bursts out in tears, because she feels rejected again.
She becomes the aggressor and even speaks her brothers death penalty.

Gregor is in a precarious situation already before his metamorphosis.
One could add many autobiographical details of kafka having based gregor on himself, but that would not be useful in order to object to the mental illness thesis

Amanda Laggan Well put, Nikki. I enjoyed reading your review. It puts a lot of things in perspective for me. Even points I might have missed. Thank you.

Amanda Laggan Well put, Nikki. I enjoyed reading your review. It puts a lot of things in perspective for me. Even points I might have missed. Thank you.

Amanda Laggan Well put, Nikki. I enjoyed reading your review. It puts a lot of things in perspective for me. Even points I might have missed. Thank you.

Amanda Laggan Well, that triple post is embarrassing. Hitting the post button on the app more than once when I thought it froze, er. Sorry!

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