Analysis of Franz Kafka’s Short Story "The Metamorphosis"

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Analysis Of Franz Kafka’s Short Story “The Metamorphosis”

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Possessions, property, belongings and goods often give people a false sense of prioritization of what is truly important. Material objects have a sinister control over people since possessions have a tendency to present themselves as “essential” and many individuals believe that statement to be true. Franz Kafka’s short story, “The Metamorphosis”, offers a counter-argument of materialism by insisting that it needs to be prosecuted for negatively affecting the lives of many individuals by having them put money above all else. Kafka’s quaint story about Gregor Samsa who mysteriously awakens one morning to discover he has morphed into an insect as he and his family try to work around this strange occurrence offers much insight on how the story negatively perceives twentieth century materialism. Samsa’s gloomy thoughts about his work is an excellent example of how materialism is being critiqued. Samsa’s negative thoughts about his job can be seen near the start of the short story. Samsa contemplates that, “What a strenuous career I have chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and top of that there’s the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!” (Kafa 2).

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Samsa’s thoughts highlight an interesting feature and that is he the only character that realizes how meaningless it is to be promoting a materialistic lifestyle. Samsa’s occupation of a travelling salesman brings him no joy whatsoever and condemns him to constantly feeling miserable as a result. Examining Samsa’s thoughts more closely, he bluntly makes his feelings known about how exhausting it is to lead a materialistic lifestyle by shouting how much it tires him out to be selling people this terrible ideology. Gregor Samsa indicts materialism, even if he is not one who particularly believes in it wholeheartedly, for the fact that it has caused him to lead a dreadful life. Gregor cannot even feel elated when he is forced to travel as he finds it arduous and simply draining on his well-being. The most important section of Samsa’s thoughts is his words on meeting people everyday which expertly shows one of the biggest arguments against materialism. Samsa’s asserts that even seeing people is a chore as he is too focused on promoting materialism, since that is his job, and hardly has little time to make an effort to make a deep connection with the people he meets. This notion that material goods and possessions are more important than deep and meaningful connections with other individuals is worrisome and that is exactly the point Kafka is trying to make.

In Samsa’s case, it is understandable since he has to be constantly on the move and his work hardly allows him any leeway to form deep relationships with others. For other people, their material belongings often times become the focal point of their lives rather than their friends and family. Samsa not only condemns not only his career, but materialism as well. Gregor Samsa’s parents and their relationship is a prime example of how materialism can be detrimental among some people. Samsa’s connection to his parents is not that of the typical connection most people have with their parents, which is built on communication, trust, and affection. From what is depicted in the story, Samsa’s parents have been deeply affected by materialism that it poisons their opinions of their own son. Upon examining their relationship, it is truly disturbing to unearth how unequal and dreary the ways in how they interact with one another. The way Mr. Samsa treats his son, Gregor, throughout the story depicts how he was never really concerned with his son’s well-being whatsoever and almost every interaction the two have together results in Mr. Samsa abusing his son in some way or another. The description of Mr. Samsa, moments before he pelts his son with apples, perfectly encapsulates the two’s relationship. The description depicts that, “The same tired man as used to be laying there entombed in his bed when Gregor came back from his business trips, who would receive him sitting in the armchair in his nightgown when he came back in the evenings” (20).

What this description reveals about Mr. Samsa’s character is that he easily neglectful of his son and the material objects that are listed in this description, such as the bed, nightgown, and armchair, relays the sentiment that Mr. Samsa is more concerned of maintaining his materialistic lifestyle. The irony that occurs after this description is given where Mr. Samsa throws several apples at Gregor shows that, during a time of need, Mr. Samsa will easily turn on someone who is not assisting in the family’s living situation. Gregor is the opposite where he is the only one providing for his family and continues to do so and does not antagonize the family for not being able to support in some form or another. Materialism has infected the mind of Mr. Samsa as he cannot relate to his son’s way of thinking and turns on him the first chance he gets. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa’s materialistic priorities also end up affecting the way they view their daughter Grete.

Near the story’s conclusion, it shows a glimmer of hope of how the family have goals set to potentially live more comfortably than before. However, a disturbing glimpse of events yet to occur is shown when the thoughts of Mr. and Mrs. Samsa are exposed. The two view their daughter and contemplate “how their daughter was blossoming into a well built and beautiful young lady. Just from from each other’s glance and almost without knowing it they agreed that it would soon be time to find a good man for her” (31). What these lines indicate is that the parents are devising a plan to replace Gregor as the breadwinner of the family and have Grete take Gregor’s spot. The plan unfolds before the reader’s eyes as the parents notice Grete’s physical attributes as they believe this can be utilized as an effective way to earn money. They also consider that seeking a man is best for the parents, not Grete. Seeing as how Mr. and Mrs. Samsa use a materialistic mindset, it should come as no surprise that a top priority when finding a possible suitor for Grete is that the man is quite wealthy so that they can continue to live the way they did when Gregor was the breadwinner. All of this indicates a disturbing cycle as it can end up leading to another situation where they dispose the breadwinner who can no longer provide and move on to the next one. Kafka’s short story serves as an eye-opening experience for many as he expertly highlights the dangers of materialism and why it should have no place in society.

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