("There is at this moment a beetle the size of god's ass on the table about six inches from the t-writer. It is worse than anything Kafka ever dreamed, so big I can see its eyes and the hair on its legs — Jesus, suddenly it leaped off and now circles me with a menacing whir")
At first the long drawn out melancholy words, sentence after sentence, of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis reeked of monotone as I read. However, after a little background research and a second read through the sadness of Gregor’s experience spewed from the pages. At a deeper look and a little persuasion from Barry Creamer, a ministry blogger from Criswell College, it became apparent that Gregor’s misfortune and misery was in fact a reflection of Franz Kafka’s :
The Metamorphosis is in the realization that Gregor himself is Kafka’s prodigal—the prodigal who never “comes to himself,” never seeks help, never turns back, and never experiences the warm embrace of life-, purpose-, and for-giving grace in the arms of his true father or family. For genuine existentialists those experiences are as unrealistic as the love of Kafka’s father was (or appeared to be) to him. (That same sadness is mirrored by the family’s relief at Gregor’s loss rather than persistent pursuit of his restoration.) (Creamer) With this it can be assumed that Kafka portrays similar aspect of his own metamorphosis in his analogous story.
As a young man in the 1900’s Kafka inexplicably resembled Gregor in The Metamorphosis as the weary saddened dung beetle. Kafka too found himself pressured by his lethargic and indifferent father to provide stability for his family. While growing up in the bureaucratic wasteland of Prague, Kafka described his town as broad modern streets of dreams, disguised with traces of the old ghetto, with its dreary alleys, reeking taverns, ubiquitous corruption to be more real than the palpable for the residents of the new city (Sokel). During his time in Prague Kafka was faced with the infant death of two brothers and constant moving that would soon send young Kafka into a state of instability. Both Hermann Kafka (father) and Julia Kafka (mother) were industrious people and instilled the necessity of work to Kafka at an early age. Although, Kafka did exceptionally well in his jobs, first at the Assicurazioni Generali, an Italian insurance company, and later with the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia, he often took long time off as an escape from fear of becoming just another pencil pusher (Wiki). During his time off Kafka tried several attempts to purse his writing, but was shattered by his father when he wanted him to take charge of his brother-in-law Karl Hermann's asbestos factory, which took up a lot of his time until 1917 (when it was shut down) and literally almost drove him to suicide. (Wiki)
In "The Metamorphosis" the latter Gregor spends his days pressed up against the window staring out onto the gray, contemplating thoughts of his earlier days. Gregor soon begins to fit the role as the unfit beetle, pondering over the meaning of his existence.
“Then he crept up on the window sill and, braced on the chair, leaned against the window to look out, obviously with some memory or other of the satisfaction which looking out the window used to bring him in earlier times.” (Franz Kafka)
As a direct reflection of Gregor, Kafka in his depressed years at the firm was also known to have spent endless hours gazing out his bedroom window contemplating his purpose.
Kafka also developed early in life an inordinate sense of guilt. The idea of the insolubility of the most ordinary, even human problems depressed his youth and later inspired his art, Gregor in “The Metamorphosis” (Phillip Rahv 62).
Inevitably, when comparing Kafka’s life struggles of his time, with those of Gregor, the distressed insect, the similarity of the two are evident. This could be assumed as an arguable result of the unstable and depressed ethnicity Franz Kafka lived in. During his time he faced numerous hardships and obstacles that a young Jewish man went through in those times.
- Barry Creamer. “The Prodigal Son Parable” 2012. Criswell College. 24 May 2012 Web
- Wikipedia. “Franz Kafka” 2012. Wikipedia. 24 May 2012 Web
- Sokel, Walter. “Franz Kafka as a Jew” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook. 18.1 (2012): 233-238.Web
- Rahv, Phillip. “Franz Kafka: The Hero As Lonely Man” The Kenyon Review. 1.1 (1939): 60-74.Web
- Kafka , Franz. The Metamorphosis. Tribeca Books, 1915.