Book Cover
Title The Metamorphosis
Series ---
Author Franz Kafka
Cover Art ---
Publisher ---
First Printing 1915
Category Literature
Warnings None

Main Characters

Gregor Samsa

Main Elements Fantasy
Website ---

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing -- though absurdly comic -- meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

This story is free to read online.

This story was bizarre. I mean, I knew it would be going into it, after all it's about a guy who wakes up one morning having been transformed (for real or only in his head?) into a large man-sized insect.

As the summary says, it is actually somewhat comedic at times. Gregor trying to figure out how to walk, open his door, and just generally function while is family is freaking out around him. Other times it was incredibly depressing. Was Gregor some poor man suffering a mental breakdown and his family, not knowing what to do with him, leave him locked in his own room with his own filth?

And perhaps being an invertebrate wasn't a surprising fate for Gregor, he had no backbone, not standing up to his employer, not standing up to his father. And now, finally, having this odd medical condition, he finally didn't have to do what everyone else told him to do anymore. After all he couldn't exactly go to work in the shape of an insect.

The insect point of view was at times interesting. Describing the difficulties of moving about with six tiny little flaying legs, though with the benefit of being able to crawl up walls and ceilings. But then you switch you mind over and imagine it was all in his head, and what he must have really been doing to imagine himself crawling about like that, leaving little brown marks in his wake. It is either an interesting fantasy, or a very, very disturbing view of mental illness.

But reading up on it there is a third take, one that isn't actually about Gregor himself, but the reactions of the people around him. How cruel we are to those that are useless, whether because mentally disable, elderly, and so forth. How, well, happy the family was when Gregor finally met his fate, and relieved that they didn't have to throw him out of the house themselves, and the embarassment they had when he showed himself to some strangers.

Kafka never explained what he really meant, perhaps leaving it up to us to see where we fit in the story and what angle we place on it.

For what it's worth, its a classic and one of those things that most people know and discuss and probably shoudl be read at least once in a lifetime. And it's short, only about fifty pages (I don't think I could have read more than that, was getting too disturbed by it). I did overall enjoy it, it really made me think, but it also gave me nightmares (literally...and I usually don't dream about what I read!)

Posted: October 2016


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