“One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read the Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into a gigantic insect.” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. “
– Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
It is not only Marquez who was struck by The Metamorphosis’s absurdity. The reader at the onset of the novella is confused whether Gregor Samsa has actually turned into a bug or whether he is just dreaming or whether he has lost his mind and hallucinating.
While reading Kafka one might feel a little claustrophobic. Not because of the narrative voices which are mostly few. But because every inch of the fictive space is cluttered with oppression and incomprehension of the oppression.
Gregor is entangled in the snares of a demanding job and a demanding family. He as a travelling salesman has lived a hurried life. With the transformation everything has come to a standstill. The metamorphosing lead to other transformations as well. The love of his family metamorphosed into disgust and disdain.
The Samsas are unable to comprehend the presiding situation. So are the readers. Some of the humor generates from the ensuing incomprehension. But the very comical is also the very tragic.
In The Metamorphosis one finds a literalization of metaphors. Gregor scurries from one place to another because of the nature of his work. He is trapped by his work and family. The transformation is just a realization of his insect like status in the world he occupies.
The novella’s central theme is of alienation. This theme has been brought out brilliantly by Kafka by the amalgamation of the real and the phantasmagoric.
The Metamorphosis recounts an extraordinary event told with a cadence of the ordinary. It is disturbing and humorous at the same time. The story is simple but not simplistic.
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