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    Kafka Essay Thesis (1833 words)

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    And Reality Of ChangeThe Reality of Change What is reality? Every person has his or her own”reality” or truth of their existence. For some it may be a dead-end job dueto their lack of education while to others it may be the carefree life of asuccessful person. The true reality of any situation is that whatever directionis chosen in life a person brings the same inner self, motivational levels andattitudes. Unless they are willing to change the way they perceive and react toa situation they are forever trading one set of problems for another. As readersof literature we too seek to escape our “reality” and experience lifethrough an author’s imagination while gaining valuable knowledge aboutourselves.

    In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the nature of Gregor Samsa’sreality changes insignificantly in spite of his drastic physical changes. Gregor’s life before the metamorphosis was limited to working and caring forhis family. As a travelling salesman, Gregor worked long, hard hours that leftlittle time to experience “life. ” He reflects on his so-called lifeacknowledging the “plague of traveling: the anxieties of changing trains, theirregular, inferior meals, the ever changing faces, never to be seen again,people with whom one has no chance to be friendly” (Kafka 13).

    Gregor, workingto pay off his family’s debt, has resigned himself to a life full of nopleasures only work. Kafka himself paralleled this sentiment in a quote takenfrom his diaries noting that no matter how hard you work “that work stilldoesn’t entitle you to loving concern for people. Instead, you’re alone, atotal stranger, a mere object of curiosity” (Pawel 167). Gregor submergeshimself in work and becomes a stranger to himself and to life.

    Any type ofsocial contact beyond porters, waitresses or bartenders was non-existent. He hadonce met a “cashier in a hat shop, whom he had pursued earnestly but tooslowly” (Kafka 76). There was no room in Gregor’s life for people other thathis family and as a result was condemned to a life without love or caring not tomention basic companionship. He worked diligently to provide for his family andthat remained his only goal in life.

    Gregor’s family relied on him to be the”breadwinner” of the family, but gave him nothing in return. The life thathe had led until now was one fully of obligations and loneliness; he came hometo empty hotel rooms or his apathetic family. His parents and “their dominancethus extends to the system which deprives him of creative life and marriedlove” (Eggenschwiler 54). So concerned with ensuring his parents and sisterwere taken care of, he forgot his own needs. It was apparent to everyone that hewas no longer thought of as a son or an extension of the family, but merely as a”support system.

    ” The tragic fact is that “everyone had grown accustomedto it, his family as much as himself; they took the money gratefully, he gave itwillingly but the act was accompanied by no remarkable effusiveness” (Kafka48). It appears that in the course of his hectic work schedule, he overlooksthat in return for dedication to his family, he remains unloved andunappreciated. Yet Gregor still “believed he had to provide his family with apleasant, contented, secure life” (Emrich 149), regardless of how they treatedhim. Gregor’s existence before the metamorphosis was much like after it;limited to work and family, he went unnoticed by both.

    After changing into acockroach one night, Gregor is forced to live a life of isolation with a familywho is appalled by him. He is placed in a “dark bedroom, in the jumble ofdiscarded furniture and filth” a ” monstrous vermin, a grotesque, hiddenpart of the family” (Eggenschwiler 211). Shock and terror, resulting in Gregorbeing locked away, marked his family’s reaction to his metamorphosis. Hissister is the only one that, while frightened, would tend to Gregor’s room andmeals.

    She even took the responsibility so far as to get angry with anyone whowanted to help. Gregor was not allowed any contact or association with thefamily and “no one attempted to understand him, no one, not even his sister,imagined that he could understand them” (Kafka 45). So Gregor was left tooccupy his time, alone, and contemplate the situation he had been thrust into. He was coming to realize that through his metamorphosis he had not lostanything. He had simply moved from one form to another while his environmentremained constant.

    The actual metamorphosis “symbolizes a rebellion assertionof unconscious desires and energies” (Eggenschwiler 203). Gregor’s currentcircumstances understandably left him in search of a way out. It was however,his devotion to his family that kept him working and sacrificing himself rightup to the crucial change. The family unit undergoes radical changes afterGregor’s metamorphosis while he attempts to remain vigilant in caring for hisfamily. In reality from the onset of the change Gregor would not be able toprovide for his family any longer.

    However, he is so consumed with his dutiesthat, even in his “cockroach” state “considers whether he can now stillcatch the seven o’clock train” (Emrich 137). Gregor puts his family first,yet again. During the confrontation with the manager from his office, he begsthe manager “please sir, spare my parents” (Kafka 24). Even in the face ofsome unknown tragedy that had transformed Gregor, he steadfastly protects hisfamily. As always he concludes “his duty was to remain docile and to try tomake things bearable for his family” (Kafka 42).

    He carries this out eventhough it is he who is experiencing this devastating situation, not his family. As time goes by Gregor realizes that his family can get on without him. He hasbecome a burden to them and his days of being provider and protector are over. Near the end of the story, his parents hardly even acknowledge him. Realizingthat the situation is hopeless, his father exclaims “If he could onlyunderstand us, perhaps there would be some way of coming to an agreement”(Kafka 89).

    This “understanding” the father desires is one that they neverallowed Gregor. The family never understood the strain that the current state ofaffairs was putting on Gregor, and now rather than supporting him when he needsthem they desert him. Even his sister begins to resent him, feeding him onlyoccasionally and rarely cleaning his room. The family he gave so much to inreturn gives him nothing, leaving him in his time of need, alone and despondent. He recognizes that it is time to free his family of the burden of caring forhim. Thinking of his family he “realized that he must go, and this opinion onthis point was even more firm, if possible, than that of his sister” (Kafka92).

    He dies that night and his family mourns only momentarily before moving onwith their life. They decide to go for a ride in the country as if nothinghappened, “they assert freedom and rebellion that Gregor never asserted in hisfive years as a dutiful salesman” (Eggenschwiler 213). Having responsibilityproved to be too much for the family, unlike Gregor who devoted his life to hisfamily. The family distanced themselves from Gregor after the transformation butultimately, moved closer to the way of life Gregor had been subjected to. Thetrue reality of Gregor and his family can be seen through the resultingcondition of the family itself. After his metamorphosis Gregor learneddisturbing information of the financial matters of the family.

    “He had alwaysimagined that his father had been unable to save a penny from the ruins of hisbusiness; in any case, his father had never said anything to undeceive him”(Kafka 47), and he was shocked to learn the family had money. For five years hehad struggled and remained a “slave” to his own family to find out theycould have bought his way out of bondage long ago. Upon hearing this thoughGregor, still wanting to take care of his family, is not upset but rather gladhis father had the foresight. The current situation also led to the members ofthe family to gaining employment to make ends meet. Seeing the father returningfrom work, dressed in his work clothes, Gregor wonders if “it was really thesame man who once had lain wearily in bed when Gregor had been leaving on hisjourneys” (Kafka 64).

    Not only has the father found employment, but the motherand daughter as well. Though they are a seamstress and sales clerk respectively,they are forced to partake of the “daily grind” to ensure the success of thefamily. While the family maintains their existence, they are no better off thanthey were when Gregor was at the helm. The tragedy of the situation is that thefamily comes full circle, enduring exactly what Gregor had for years.

    Afterobserving a family who lived on the fruits of someone else is labor, we areshown a “family exhausted and depressed from laboring at menial jobs ?messenger, seamstress, salesgirl. They live much as Gregor did before hismetamorphosis” (Eggenschwiler 209). Finally, they are forced to work and earntheir own keep. Gregor had slaved for them right up until the metamorphosis andnow it was their turn to do for themselves.

    We watch “this petty bourgeoisfamily that once had its own business” as it falls “in to the laboringclass, where its strength, pride and independence are lost” (Eggenschwiler210). They must begin, yet again, working their way back to economic freedomwith no help from Gregor. After the nightmare of Gregor’s transformationpasses they look to the future, longing for normalcy and the possibility ofmarriage for their daughter. In the Metamorphosis, we tend to believe thatGregor’s change into a cockroach is the main purpose, but after furtherconsideration we see that the “true” metamorphosis was in that of hisfamily. Gregor’s reality never changes; his life is as worthless as acockroach as it was as a human.

    The family as a unit is the ones who go frombeing “freeloaders” to able-bodied workers for the good of the family. It ispossible that had they realized this earlier the suffering Gregor hadexperienced for years could have been avoided. Franz Kafka asks us to fathom ifonly for a moment, the thought of our lives changing due to some radical change. Do we feel like Gregor, beaten down and alone? Are our daily struggles fornaught? And, if so, would we fair better as a cockroach? The answer is, ofcourse, “no” but, through the Metamorphosis we observe as one man’s lifeis proven to be in vain and no better as a human than a cockroach. Gregor’sfamily is a burden that he respectfully accepts and carries but the familyreciprocates by neglecting him and longing for his demise.

    Can anyone be surethat their lives are good and perfect and that their families would understandand accept any change that could arise? The fact is that above and beyond allthings a person must consider themselves first, however selfish it might appear. Sense of self will keep you through all the adverse times in life and be acompanion to rely on when no one else cares. BibliographyEggenschwiler, David. “‘The Metamorphosis’, Freud, and the Chains ofOdysseus”. Franz Kafka: Modern Critical Views.

    Ed. Harold Bloom. New York:Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 199-219. Emrich, Wilhelm. Franz Kafka: ACritical Study of His Writings.

    New York: Ungar, 1968. Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Trans. A.

    L. Lloyd. New York: Vanguard Press, Inc. , 1946. Pawel,Ernst.

    The Nightmare of Reason. New York: Vintage Books, 1984.

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