The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis is on the reading list of literature for high school in China. I have brief impression of the story:a man woke up and found himself to be a bug.

I reread this story this weekends and do I like it? yes and no.

It explores the complicated relationship of a family:

Gregor is a travel salesman who supports the life of his family. He is the sole bread earner and he is proud of taking the responsibility of raising the family. His father is a broken business person, preferring to sit and nap in his chair, reading all sorts of newspaper and leave the bread earning to his son. His mother is a feeble and hopeless weak woman that can faint easily. His sister is young and blooming and likes playing violin. All these people are rely on Gregor.

The beginning of the story makes one feel resentful for his family. They are not happy that Gregor changed to an insect so sudden and most importantly, lost the ability to earn a living. They became so anxious and dread of the reality that Gregor has changed. One can feel that they don’t care with Gregor sincerely but they care about themselves.

The harmony of a family is shattered under the unexpected catastrophe and the relationship between the members of the family changed. Gregor, the former supporter has to rely on the care and mercy of his sister and parents; his parents and sister were forced to earn a living and become more independent. Gregor was not needed in this new family structure. But they can not get rid of Gregor, he is Gregor anyway though in an insect form.

What makes family relationship become so complicated, is because it was tied with blood and feelings; thus the family issues can not be dealed as plainly as  a business issues. But family relationship, like all other relationships, are closely related by common interest and economic efficiency. Family is a micro unit of workshop or business that needed to be run with the best interest of all people on board.

While Gregor still thinking the love of his sister, the feeling of his parents, they are already start hating him. He tries to show his love and care but it works out pretty ugly.

Is Gregor the victim?

It is easy for a reader to criticize Gregor’s sister and parents, for their cruelty on Gregor. But I don’t think we should judge with too much hate and like. Let me explain myself, I think Gregor is not blameless. He has his weakness (one can see easily at the beginning of the story how he deal with his work and his colleagues) and he never want to face the reality of life. The way he deal with his family is childish. He treats his family like a group of children that have to be spoon fed. He takes all the hard parts, yes. But he never discuss his problem, his feeling and his plan with other family member. He wants them to have a comfortable life, he wants to support his sister to have a worry-free life. But to earn more, he scarifies his hours to be with his family, he keeps everything to himself and never share all the bad things. I guess he even borrow money from his boss to tide over some difficulties for he doesn’t want his family suffer a bit.

But in fact, they are a group of people that able to earn their living and share the burden of family cost. His father even hide some money without the knowledge of Gregor. If Gregor hasn’t pretend everything is ok, he might get help from his father and won’t stuck in a situation that he have to work like a slave and without dignity. All in all, the whole family would be happier and less tight if Gregor not taking everything to himself. Turning into a insect might indicate his life is more like an insect than a human.

Like it or not?

I like this story, I do. It is short but has deep meaning that can reflect our own lives. I don’t like it because it is too dark–it scares me. Kafka lay out the story like a drama that never happen in real life. The form is not real not the human nature is so real and so true that almost depress me. We are fine, we have a loving family, we think ourselves are so kind and we love each other so tenderly. All this might changed in the face of tragedy, like a peddle was throw into the water.

I am now reading another book by Kafka, The Trial.



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