Free Irony in The Metamorphosis Essay Sample

The novella The Metamorphosis overwhelms the reader from the first sentence: "Waking up one morning after a restless sleep, Gregor Samsa found that he had turned into a horrible insect." The fact of human transformation into an insect at the beginning of the story, of course, shocks every reader. The point here is not the improbability of the situation but in that feeling of almost physiological disgust, which occurs when the reader imagines an insect of human sizes. Acceptable as a literary mean, Kafka’s fantastic image nevertheless seems provocative precisely because of its demonstrative unaesthetic. The main question of a story lies much deeper. The reader does not fail to notice the profound irony in The Metamorphosis. Even transformed into a cockroach, Gregor Samsa remains more human in his thoughts and feelings. Kafka seems to be making an astute observation about the nature of humanity in The Metamorphosis. Thus, this essay discusses the urgent problem of human society and develops the thesis that human beings are not the most evolved creatures on the Earth.

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However, let us imagine that such a transformation is still an accident. If one forgets the real image of the hyper-insect, the Kafka’s story will appear to be a strange way plausible, even commonplace. There is nothing exceptional in Kafka's story, except the mystical transformation. Kafka tells about quite understandable everyday inconveniences that started for the hero and his family since the conversion of Gregor. All this is due to some biographic circumstances of Kafka’s life. He always felt guilty in front of his family, especially his father. It seemed to him that he did not meet the expectations that his father, the owner of a small trading firm, had placed on him, wanting to see the son as a successful lawyer and a worthy successor to the family trading business. The complex of guilt towards his father and his family is one of the strongest in this diffident person, and from this point of view, the novella "The Metamorphosis" is a great metaphor of this complex. Gregor is a pathetic, useless insect, a shame for the family that does not know what to do with him.

From the other side, if Kafka's oeuvre were only a self-flagellation, his stories would unlikely to have received such a global response. The way Kafka showed the absurdity and inhumanity of total bureaucratization of life in the 20th century, is striking. And, as a matter of fact, such a degree of inhumanity was unacceptable for European society of Kafka’s times, unless only in Nazi Germany. So Kafka had a truly extraordinary gift to look at the root, to predict the future development of certain trends. Thereby the author realized the dream of expressionists who wanted to understand not only particular phenomena but the laws of human being. His dry, hard, without metaphor and tropes prose is the embodiment of the modern formula of existence, its most general law. Specific numbers and specific embodiments may be different, but the essence is one, and it is expressed by the formula. From a purely artistic and technical side, Kafka achieves this effect primarily through a well-defined method. It is due to the materialization of metaphors. When we one says, for example, about this or that person "he lost a human face," or about this or that phenomenon "it boggles the mind" or "it is like a nightmare," he or she uses metaphors, resorting to the meaning that they are not literal, figurative. One understands that the appearance, after all, will not change into a horse, dog, and so on. Kafka materializes this impossibility, absurdity, fantasticality, and by that fully represents the issue of inhumanity in this kind of irony.

The main hero of the novel Gregor Samsa grew up in Prague in a middle-class family, and he is interested only in material values. Gregor’s Father spent almost all the money the family had, and Gregor was forced to serve for one of his father's creditors as a salesman. His dad lost his job, his mother was ill with asthma, and the sister was still too young to work. Therefore, Gregor had to support a family on his own. Getting up at dawn, he spends most of his time on the go. All Gregor’s thoughts are focused on the interests of the family. He has no friends, no girlfriend. Infrequent nights that he has to spend at home, Gregor is sitting with his parents at the table, reading the paper or studying train timetables. All the money earned by hard work, Gregor gives to the parents, so the family could live well and have a maid. He was so proud that he was able to provide the parents and sister an opportunity to live in such a beautiful house. The young man wanted to save money for his sister, who played the violin so that she could study at the conservatory. At first glance, it seems that the love and harmony prevail in the family. But one rainy morning something strange happened with Gregor, and he turned into an insect. Struck by this extraordinary accident, he did not even think about why it happened and what to do with it, how to become a man again. His only thought was about his job and the means of subsistence for his family. Parents and sister were shocked by Gregor’s trouble, but they were not concerned about how to return their son and brother his normal appearance.

Their only question was how to hide the incident from their acquaintances and where to take the money. First, the mother and the sister spared the cockroach while there was a hope that he can somehow heal itself. Sister brought food to his room and even tried to guess what could be eatable to her brother. But very soon she got sick and stopped hiding her disgust to the insect. His father, from the very beginning, tried to hurt Gregor. On the first day, when the disaster happened to his son, he violently pushed him into the room without any compassion. On another occasion, the father began to throw apples at the cockroach, and one of them wounded its back. Because of these wounds the son lost mobility. Gregor’s comfortable room eventually turned into a dump of useless things. Relatives took away the furniture, to which Gregor was used, and put the boxes of ashes and debris instead. Until Gregor could support his family, his parents and sister seemed to be helpless. But when they realized that their breadwinner is no longer able to work, they began to take care of themselves. The father got a job, the mother began to sew underwear for sale, the sister became a seller, and in the evenings studied French to get some better job.

In conclusion, by transforming Gregor’s character into an insect, Kafka left him a human soul. It was a real, loving, empathetic heart which so few people had. On the other hand, one cannot say so about the members of his family. They seemed to be humans, but their spirit was gruesome. They never really cared about Gregor and didn’t love him. In fact, their inhumanity killed the hero of Franz Kafka’s novel The Metamorphosis.


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