Have you ever wondered how many books exist on Earth? Well, Leonid Taycher, a Google software engineer has an answer for you. With special tactics, he has concluded there are 129,864,880 books out there in the world (Joab 2). From childrens to sci-fi, fiction to nonfiction, and everything else in between. All of these books hold different stories whom authors have brought into existence. Every author has their own individual way of writing, the techniques the author uses shows a great deal about the kind of writer that they are. Often, writers are known for their contributions to society as well as how their readers can relate to the story (Styles of Writing 4). Readers may have relations with the story through a lesson that has been learned or simply just an experience that they have gone through in their life.
The book Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka has numerous short stories within it, all including human experiences. However, we will be focusing closely on the chapter with the name of “Metamorphosis”. The main character, Gregor Samsa is a young traveling salesman. One night he went to sleep in his bed as himself, despite feeling a bit off, but when he woke up the next morning he was suddenly transformed into a gigantic cockroach. Before he went through this alternation his main concern was to provide for his mother, father, and younger sister. They depended on him excruciatingly heavily when it came to their financial situation. Gregor ultimately supported his family as a whole with his job as a salesman, and it was an immense responsibility. As he lay awake that morning in his new body with a new life unknowingly awaiting him he exclaims, “Oh, my Lord! If only I didn’t have to follow such an exhausting profession! On the road, day in, day out. The work is so much more strenuous than it would be in head office, and then there’s the additional ordeal of travelling, worries about train connections, the irregular, bad meals, new people all the time, no continuity, no affection. Devil take it!” (Kafka 88). From this quotation alone it is clear how much stress just Gregor’s job causes him. It is also noticeable that he is looking for change in his life, noting how much easier it would be to work in the head office. The author Franz Kafka may have experienced a time where he felt the need to bring some change into his life as well, but just like Gregor he was unable to due to pressure from others. It is common for this to occur through one’s lifetime, fiction or nonfiction. By these means he may have very well contributed his own personal story through Gregor’s character; so that other people alike could relate to his story themselves. From this, readers could take the message of how important it is in life to focus on yourself even in the midst of madness. You may have to disregard opposing thoughts of others, possibly including family or friends. Nevertheless, there are times when neither side can win and conflict is inevitable. In “Metamorphosis” there is a conflict between man vs. society, or family, rather. When Gregor Samsa turns into a cockroach he no longer fits in with his family. In fact, they become ashamed and even disgusted by him. His own parents and dearest sister now treat him differently and go as far as closing him off from the rest of them. Gregor found himself “heartsore and weary to death, and wouldn’t move for many hours” (Kafka 133). This story is filled with the powerful but unfortunate theme of suffering. Gregor suffers both as a human and as a cockroach. There is an extreme amount of pressure forced upon him as a human, yet nothing gets easier in his new life as a cockroach. Sometimes change is for the better, but sometimes it’s for the worse. Franz Kafka exhibited astonishing descriptive language within his writing, in addition to this he also portrayed various relatable and meaningful stories throughout his book.
Another incredible story that shows how important authors contributions to others can be is A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah is a remarkable and view altering memoir about war. It takes place during the years of 1991 and 2002 in Sierra Leone, it first began when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) attempted to overthrow Sierra’s government. It was one of the bloodiest wars in Africa and in the end there were more than fifty thousand deaths and half a million people displaced in a nation of four million (Momodu 5). Now, imagine being a child during this time period, deaths surrounding you, lost homes, military rule, ect. Well, Ishmael Beah first handedly experienced this terror at only twelve years old. Most of us can’t even begin to envision what this must be like in our wildest dreams, thankfully. However, it is not too unusual for children to go through a life changing tragedy just as Ishmael did. In this context, that is how he relates his story to other readers; he also uses his experiences to teach others knowledge that many lack about how damaging being caught in the middle of a war can truly be, let alone being a child. During the war Ishmael lives through a conflict between man vs. society. He loses his family during the middle of all of the chaos and never sees them again, in turn he has no other choice but to travel with his friends on his journey. It is anything but easy, for several months he desperately hangs on to his life by overcoming hunger, violence and isolation. In chapter 5 Ishmael says, “We were so hungry that it hurt to drink water and we felt cramps in our guts. Our lips became parched and our joints weakened and ached” (Beah 30). To further show the extent of how hungry they all were he says, “One evening we actually chased a little boy who was eating two boiled ears of corn by himself. He was about five years old and was enjoying the corn that he held in both hands, taking turns biting each ear” (Beah 30). For them to have taken food from this young boy they had to have been struggling like never before. Still, they had to do what they had to do to survive just like everyone else. Ishmael does everything humanly possible to maintain his innocence for as long as possible. He holds onto his beloved childhood memories, which are shown through flashbacks throughout the story. He also holds onto his fathers saying of, “If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die”, these few words are enough to keep him going through another day. Only when he is dragged into the war and is forced to fight he loses his innocence, his flashback stop not long after. As soldiers he was trained to tap into the rage that he holds inside of himself to use it against the rebels. The officers knew just how to manipulate this army of children and others, they gave them drugs and fueled them by violent films while filling their heads with nonsense. Subsequently, this new way of life was accepted as reality, coming to the conclusion that they either kill or will be killed. Ishmael loses sight of any dreams or goals he has had beyond surviving day by day. For a very long period of time he is lost in this mindset. In 1996, Ishmael was finally given a chance to speak at a conference. After so long of feeling hopeless it is there where he gains a glimpse of hope. He meets many children who have gone through similar situations as him and realizes that they can all have an impact on the world, “That first morning in New York City, we learned about each other’s lives for hours… Within minutes of talking to each other, we knew that the room was filled with young people who had had a very difficult childhood” (Beah 196). With the love and compassion of these other children as well as his extended family, and the nurses who took care of him he escapes this devastating life and toxic mindset. With time, he also learns how to come to terms with his anger and forgives himself for a war that was completely out of his control. Ishmael’s story is one of transformation and survival and it is momentous for people all around the world to read it. He shows people that no matter what you are put through there is always light on the other side.
Both Metamorphosis and A Long Way Gone have left an impact on their readers. They are similar to each other in ways of personal transformation and their struggles. Yet, they are also very different. Gregor went through a physical transformation from a human to a cockroach, however in either body he was miserable. Ishmael on the other hand, tried his best to stay as positive and hopeful as possible even while living through a war as a young child. Each boy lost their family in one way or another. Through both hardships only one had a happy ending, Ishmael lived through the whole nine yards and still found some way to find happiness, with the help of others. Gregor died because of despair from being shut off from everyone. In the end, this shows that if you have somebody who loves and cares for you then you have just about everything. People all around the globe can relate to both of these stories. Franz Kafka and Ishmael Beah have respectively written strikingly impressive stories that will go down in history. Their readers will connect with each lesson and experience told for centuries to come.
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