Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka

Thank goodness this is a short story because I don't think I could have suffered through a full-length novel by Kafka. I read this years ago in school (can't remember if it was high school or college, but either way, it was many, many years ago) and didn't like it then. The title is on that infamous classics list of mine, so I thought I'd give it another go. After all, when I re-read "Call of the Wild", I loved it; perhaps that magic would strike again.

No such luck.

To give you an idea of how much I did not like this story, it took me 3 nights to get through it (and it's not even 100 pages long, at least, not in the version I found). Kept falling asleep waiting for something to happen.

The story is very basic: Gregor Samsa, a travelling sales clerk, wakes one morning to find he's no longer human. He is now an immense insect. Which, of course, means he can no longer go to work, interact with his family, go out in public, etc. The story is pretty much him in his little insect head, observing his family and how they try to care for him, and his existence for a few months after his "metamorphosis".

The only thing I did get on this 2nd reading is that it doesn't seem so much Gregor that undergoes a change but his sister, Grete. She starts the story very shy, mousy, almost scared of her shadow. In caring for Gregor's insect self, she becomes a bit braver, until she is the one at the end of the story declaring that it can't go on the way it is, that something must be done with "it" (meaning Gregor). Indeed, the last scene is the family minus Gregor walking outside in the fresh air, and Grete's parents noticing how pretty she is, and how it's time to think of finding her a suitable husband.


I will admit that I tried to read a second story in the collection I picked up, thinking that perhaps I just wasn't into "The Metamorphosis" itself. I read "The Judgment", and I have to say, my judgment is that I simply do not "get" Kafka.

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