2014/10/02 - 14:25
(SP:) Franz Kafka’s personal life reflected in the Metamorphosis
by J. Stephens
The Metamorphosis is said to be one of Franz Kafka’s best works of literature. It shows the difficulties of living in a modern society and the struggle for acceptance of others when in a time of need. In this novel Kafka directly reflects upon many of the negative aspects of his personal life, both mentally and physically. The relationship between Gregor and his father is in many ways similar to Franz and his father Herrman. The Metamorphosis also shows resemblance to some of Kafka’s diary entries that depict him imagining his own extinction by dozens of elaborated methods. This paper will look into the text to show how this is a story about the author’s personal life portrayed through his dream-like fantasies.
Franz Kafka grew up in a financially secure Jewish family in Prague. He spoke German and was neither a Czech nor German due to his Jewish upbringing. Born in 1883, he was the eldest child and the only son. He lived his life in the shadow of his dominating father under constant pressure to take over the family business. Kafka’s father viewed Franz as a failure and disapproved of his writing because he wanted Franz to become a business man like him. This obsession with wanting Franz to become a businessman led Herrman to beat his son. Franz Kafka died on June 3, 1924 from tuberculosis of the larynx.
From the moment we meet Gregor Samsa’s father we are shown how short tempered he is. He "came on, hissing like a wild man" when Gregor first exited his room in his new state as a bug. Gregor’s father chased after him with a cane and newspaper making a hissing noise that annoyed Gregor. Just this passage here shows how alike Mr. Samsa and Herrman Kafka are. Kafka was subjected to abuse and constant yelling from his father because he was a failure in his eyes. When Samsa sees what has happened to Gregor he is immediately outraged, either out of confusion or disappointment towards his son. His father was retired and his sister was still young and not working. Gregor felt as if he had let down the family because he had provided for them up until this point where he could no longer work. He thought it would be very difficult for his family to be financially secure without him working.
When Franz Kafka was a boy his father abused him. Whenever Kafka disagreed with his father or told his father that he wanted to be a writer, not a shop owner, his father got very upset. In the book Mr. Samsa displayed a violent temper from the very first encounter with the transformed Gregor. When he chased Gregor back to his room, he kicked him in the back as he reached the door. Another event in which Gregor encountered violence from his father was when Mr. Samsa threw an apple at him and it lodged in his back. From this point on the physical and mental condition of Gregor steadily decreased. The apple began to rot away and he felt weaker and experienced more pain than usual. Gregor even lost his appetite. The feelings of seclusion and not being wanted entered Gregor’s thoughts. He could tell that his sister did not care as much as she did when he first became a bug. These feelings could have been the same feelings of seclusion that Kafka felt in his own life after abuse from his father.
"The image of a wide pork butcher’s knife, swiftly and with mechanical regularity chopping into me, shaving off razor-thin slices which fly about due to the speed of the work." This is one example of the many painful means of death that Kafka imagines and writes about in his diary. It may be that all the physical and emotional abuse Kafka suffered, in some way inspired him to write about his own extinction. The writings obtained from his diary were never intended to be seen by the public. These writings contained detailed descriptions of his own death that were very disturbing and grotesque.
In The Metamorphosis there are many signs of slow deterioration for Gregor. He gradually starts to lose his eye sight as he notices that he can not even see across the road to the hospital. He has numerous injuries, some of which he cannot explain, like the pain in his side when he first woke up. He had an apple lodged in his back which was left to rot. He was cut by a piece off glass from a shattering alcohol bottle, and was bleeding profusely when he tried to get into his room and got stuck in the door. It is obvious that all of these descriptions are painful and the whole basis of the novel revolves around a human being who is dyeing a slow, painful death. The Metamorphosis could be one of Kafka’s imaginations of his own death that is carefully disguised and elaborated through literature.
The Samsa family is a middle class family much like the one Kafka grew up in. Rather than Gregor dying an immediate death, the story is of a long, slow death. Gregor’s health decreases gradually throughout the book, but is unnoticeable to the other members of his family. Kafka may have chosen Gregor’s death to take place over a long period of time to ease the pain of losing a loved one abruptly. If he had just died then it would have been a shock to his family members, but instead he started to become an inconvenience so that it was almost a relief to his family. It could be that with Kafka’s low self esteem he thought of himself as being Gregor, who is also shunned by his father because he is disappointed in him.
Throughout The Metamorphosis, Kafka uses Gregor to make constant reference to the slamming doors in the background. Kafka lived with his parents most of his life even when he was able to support himself. They lived in a small apartment and Franz could not concentrate on writing because of the yelling, screaming and slamming of doors. Maybe Kafka makes reference to slamming doors, which seem to have no relevance to the story, because it happened so often during the times he was trying to write, it happened unknowingly.
When comparing Franz Kafka and his personal life to The Metamorphosis it is obvious in more ways than one that he was writing a twisted story of his life. The emotional and physical abuse Gregor goes through are similar to what Kafka went through in real life. They were both abused and neglected by their fathers when they were disappointed with them. Kafka uses Gregor transforming into a bug as a way of exaggerating himself, trying to express his feelings and point of view. When writing, Kafka felt as if he was trapped in his room which he referred to as "the noise headquarters of the apartment". Gregor was an exaggeration of this because he could not leave the house to escape the noises and abuse.
Revision: 2011/01/08 - 00:18 - © Mauro Nervi
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