Dan Schwent 's Reviews > The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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May 03, 11

bookshelves: 2011, oldies
Read on May 02, 2011

Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to discover he's been transformed into a giant beetle-like creature. Can he and his family adjust to his new form?

The Metamorphosis is one of those books that a lot of people get dragooned into reading during high school and therefore are predisposed to loath. I managed to escape this fate and I'm glad. The Metamorphosis is quite a strange little book.

Translated from German, The Metamorphosis is the story of how Gregor Samsa's transformation tears his family apart. I feel like there are hidden meanings that are just beyond my grasp. I suspect it's a commentary about how capitalism devours its workers when they're unable to work or possibly about how the people who deviate from the norm are isolated. However, I mostly notice how Samsa's a big frickin' beetle and his family pretends he doesn't exist.

There's some absurdist humor at the beginning. Samsa's first thoughts upon finding out he's a beetle is how he's going to miss work. Now, I'm as dedicated to my job as most people but if I woke up to find myself a giant beetle, I don't think I'd have to mull over the decision to take a personal day or two.

Aside from that, the main thing that sticks out is what a bunch of bastards Samsa's family is. He's been supporting all of them for years in his soul-crushing traveling salesman job and now they're pissed that they have to carry the workload. Poor things. It's not like Gregor's sitting on the couch drinking beer while they're working. He's a giant damn beetle! Cut him some slack.

All kidding aside, the ending is pretty sad. I'll bet Mr. Samsa felt like a prick later. The Metamorphosis gets four stars, primarily for being so strange and also because it's the ancestor of many weird or bizarro tales that came afterwords. It's definitely worth an hour or two of your time.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Steve (new)

Steve Lowe I read this in high school, and remember liking it because it was so strange and different than everything else. But I'm a weirdo in that I truly enjoyed everything I had to read in school, even if I didn't admit it. 1984, Of Mice and Men, The Old Man and the Sea, Animal Farm... I actually dug them all back then.


Jayaprakash Satyamurthy I read this voluntarily and I have to say it was a bit of an eye-opener to me. It made me think about how utilitarian some of our closest relationships may really be; once Gregor can no longer contribute to his families social or financial status they start to lose interest in him.

There's a great graphic novel version by the fellow who replaced Prohias on Mad's Spy Vs. Spy cartoon that I highly recommend.


message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent I never got to read anything like this in high school. I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more than Lost Horizon or A Separate Piece.

A friend of mine did get assigned The Metamorphosis and tried to get by with just reading the graphic novel version. I can't remember how that worked out for him.


message 4: by Eric (new)

Eric Hendrixson In the original German, it is not clear at first that he is a bug. He's just some sort of vermin that for some reason cannot go to work. It's very similar to the ambiguity at the beginning of The Trial. The ambiguity does not translate well.
I think what I liked about this story was the mundane concerns in the face of extraordinary circumstances.


After reading this, really, you have to look up some of Gogol's short stories: The Nose, The Overcoat, Diary of a Madman, and Ivan Fyodorovich and His Aunt.


Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Good call. And after Gogol it's just a small step to that other great Russian Satirist, Bulgakov!


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Eric wrote: "After reading this, really, you have to look up some of Gogol's short stories: The Nose, The Overcoat, Diary of a Madman, and Ivan Fyodorovich and His Aunt. "

So it begins...


Velvetink ha love your review! especially Now, I'm as dedicated to my job as most people but if I woke up to find myself a giant beetle, I don't think I'd have to mull over the decision to take a personal day or two.
It's a shame he didn't qualify for a disability pension!


message 8: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent "Sorry, Mr. Samsa, but we fail to see why your transformation into a giant insect impedes your abilities as a traveling salesman. In fact, we think it might be an asset in some markets. Now catch the next train into town before you're fired!"


Velvetink Dan wrote: ""Sorry, Mr. Samsa, but we fail to see why your transformation into a giant insect impedes your abilities as a traveling salesman. In fact, we think it might be an asset in some markets. Now catch..."

touche' Dan. I'm sure that is what Social Security would say.


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

Kate Your review has inspired me to re-read it. Like Steve Lowe, I too read it in high school and loved it because it wasn't like anything else I had ever read before. P.S. Do you remember the show 'Home Movies' on Adult Swim? They did an episode entitled 'Franz Kafka Rock Opera' and I loved it! Below is the youtube link. Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_dFpK...


message 11: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Thanks. I remember Home Movies but I don't remember this!


message 12: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma Important things to remember when reading this: -Franz Kafka originally wrote it in German, and from what I understand, a ton of his writing is lost in translation -Also, the word that Kafka originally used to describe Gregor's transformation is very hard to translate, it doesn't mean an insect, but more an abstract idea, an animal that is too unclean/impure that it cannot be used as a sacrifice, so it is most likely to represent that Gregor Samsa is now more of an individual, but in being so he is hated by his family.


message 13: by Mai (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mai Nguyen I dont think gregor's transformation tear his family apart. His turning into a dung beetle grossly makes obvious the pain and isolation he already feels from his family, his job, and his life. It is like everything was set from the start and his metamorphosis simply turns the switch. The neutral, or even cold narration of the story and of gregor's reaction to his family's harsh treatment make it even more heart-wrecking. After gregor dies, i keep reading on to see the family fall into remorse, but no it is a happy ending where everyone is heading toward a better life.


Ashley Thomas I just had to read this book (in high school) and after reading through it a second time I truly came to love this book and its uniqueness and morals/lessons found in its short but interesting story. Good review and just glimpsing at the comments on your review I am glad to see some people agree with me on this book! You are right, many high school students cannot help but loathe this book, fortunately I am not one of them.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I felt exactly the same way. Poor Gregor! And what a horrible sister. Gregor works so hard for his family, and only has good thoughts for all of them. By the end of it they're just relieved that he's dead.

Good story, but jesus Samsa family, you really suck.


message 16: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Luke wrote: "Good story, but jesus Samsa family, you really suck. "

Love this line, Luke.


Bekristl I agree so much with the poster who recommended reading Gogol. "The Nose" may be a little much for anybody who took "Metamorphosis" literally, but "the Overcoat," is more accessible. Don't lose sight of the origins and times of these works. If you do youll never get it. To be brief, it is not by coincidence that the only color ever mentioned in "The Metamorphosis" is red - the apple thrown at the protagonist by his family. It becomes lodged there. A world of gray and one shining red badge that he cannot remove.


message 18: by Atit (new) - rated it 1 star

Atit Amin if you were in the book and you were in the same situation how would you react????? beacause i would just dont k now how we can be thinking iwthout being in the story


Kathleen I'm German and I was forced to read this in school. Needless to say, I hated it. But your review made me consider reading it again. Let's see how that goes...


message 20: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Kathleen wrote: "I'm German and I was forced to read this in school. Needless to say, I hated it. But your review made me consider reading it again. Let's see how that goes..."

There's a good chance I would have hated it if I was forced to read it as a teenager.


Shamili Hahaha This is possibly the best review I've read! My thoughts exactly.


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