|Title: The Metamorphosis
Author: Franz Kafka
Date of Publication: 1915
Historical information about the period of publication:
• Allied blockage of Germany
• US rejects proposal for women’s suffrage
• WWI- Germany uses poison gas against Russians
• Planet Pluto is first photographed
• Lusitania is sunk by German u-boat
• WWI- Italy joins allies and declares war on Austria-
• First prototype tank tested for British Army
Franz Kafka was born in Prague, Czech in 1883 to an
upper middle class Jewish family. As a result of the
family’s problems, Kafka was raised mostly by a nurse
and his sister, Ottla. He attended college where he
began to write and received his doctorate in
jurisprudence in 1906. He became a lawyer at the
Worker’s Insurance Co. Many of his works reflect his
feelings about his father and sister. Kafka wrote 7 works,
all short stories. The Metamophosis was published in
1915. In 1917 he discovered that he had tuberculosis
and he died in 1924. His friend Max Brod published his unfinshed works.
Characteristics of the genre:
A novella is the length between a novel and a short
story. Uses characteristics of existential and absurd literature.
Gregor Samsa is the sole bread winner for the Samsa
family. One morning after awakening from a dream,
he finds that he has turned into a coachroach. Because
of this incinvenience, Gregor does not go to work and immediately his parents are knocking at his door asking for an explanantion. His boss also comes to request
that he return to work immediately. His sister, Grete,
leaves food and tries to converse with him but he finds
fresh food repulsive. The previously unemployed
members of his family begin to work and take care of themselves as they begin to ignore Gregor. They take
in boarders who are listening to Grete play violin one evening and Gregor is attracted to the music. His father throws an apple at him to get him to leave the room
and it lodges in his back and rots. Finally Gregor dies
and the maid throws his carcuss away with the garbage.
Describe the author’s style:
Kafka’s style is ironic and understated as shown in
his calm treatment of the absurd circumstances of
The point of view is third person limited as most events are as Gregor observes them. Existential influence is clearly visible throughout the work as the roles or Gregor and his family are reinvented as they attempt to react to absurd chaos in a “normal” manner.
An example that demonstrates style:
“Oh God,” he thought,” what a grueling job I’ve picked! Day in day out- on the road... To the devil with it all!” This thought appears right after Gregor discovers he is a roach. He completely ignores his transformation and is not alarmed at all. Gregor is routinely more upset by his job than the fact that he is a giant bug.
When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
Sets the stage for the novel as well as presents the casual tone carried throughout.
He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone.
Thought of Gregor regarding himself-helps explain why he believes he is a roach, his feelings of life.
“Did you understand a word?... That was the voice of an animal,” said the manager in a tone conspicuously soft...
Expresses others’ confusion but not aversion towards Gregor’s voice.
And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams...their daughter got up first and stretched her young body.
The last line shows the family moving on without Gregor and growing in his absence.
Gregor’s serious wound, from which he suffered over a month--the apple remained imbedded...since no one dared removed it.
His family’s growing apathy towards Gregor
He felt integrated into human society once again and hoped for marvelous, amazing feats both from the doctor/locksmith, without distinguishing sharply between them.
Last bit of hope Gregor has to be human, then resigns himself to being a roach.
...it was a commandment of family duty to swallow their disgust and endure him...endure him and nothing more...
The family only tolerates his presence, they are tired of him, another indication he is only crazy and not a live giant cockroach.
Gregor Samsa- Traveling salesman, main character; Wakes up as a bug, but is more concerned with providing for the family; helpless, concerned
Mr. Samsa- Gregor’s father; resents Gregor and ends up killing him; tired, old, dependent
Mrs. Samsa- Gregor’s mother; she never accepts Gregor’s transformation and holds on to the hope that he will return to his normal state; soft-spoken, concerned
Grete Samsa- Gregor’s sister; She takes care of Gregor, however, distaste for his condition contributes largely to his death; caring, fearless
The Chief Clerk- Gregor’s manager; says Gregor was missing work because he was stealing from the company; mean, suspicious
The Cleaning Lady- maid at Samsas; makes fun of Gregor and puts his body in the trash when he dies; curious, mean-spirited
The 3 lodgers- temporary residents at the Samsas; rent rooms to bring in money for the family; arrogant, insensitive
Early 1900’s in a European country (WWI)
Samsa household, Gregor’s bedroom
Apple in back- original sin, source of evil,
Gregor’s room- imprisonment
The Boot- authority
The Metamorphosis- Gregor’s alienation from his
Insect- Gregor’s insignificance
Dead end employment
SIGNIFICANCE OF OPENING SCENE
The first sentence reflects the absurdity of the situation (Gregor as a cockroach) and the equally absurd situation of Gregor and the family attempting to react in a normal manner.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ENDING SCENE
By having the maid carelessly throwing Gregor’s carcuss into the garbage as Grete emerges “stretching out in her new body” the metamorphosis is complete for both. Gregor’s value to his family and as a person is gone as Grete’s is elevated.
OLD AP QUESTIONS
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