I first became familiar with Franz Kafka after a visit to the Czech Republic with my wife in 2017. We both fell in love with the country, especially Prague. I had heard of Kafka before that visit but had not read any of his work. We saw a large mechanical bust of Kafka while in Prague and then began to see other homages to the writer as we explored the city more. I decided that when I returned from our vacation, I was going to make an effort to read some of his works.
The first novella I started with was Metamorphosis. I had no idea what it was about or what I was getting in to. I was not disappointed, to say the least. Kafka's writing style was new to me but that does not mean it is difficult to understand, In fact, Kafka writes a pretty easy to follow story. I of course was reading an English translation and am interested on how the original German language version reads.
The story revolves around Gregor, a worker who wakes late for his job one morning only to discover that he has metamorphosed into a large insect. While his family and later his supervisor stand outside his door pleading and demanding for him to come out, Gregor attempts to come to grips with his new state of being. When he finally appears, his supervisor flees in fear/disgust at the site of him while his mother goes into hysterics. His father however reacts almost violently at the site of Gregor and manages to drive him back into his room.
Here he remains as he fully accepts his new body. It would seem as though his sister Grete also comes to accept the new him. We see her bringing him milk, although he can no longer stomach it. She also begins to remove furniture from the room in an effort to giver him more room. At this point Gregor has taken to climbing on the walls.
I don't want to say that the entire family is accepting of this change in Gregor. As the novella progresses, they become more distant from Gergor. Even Grete stops coming to his room. Everything reaches a climax when the family takes in three boarders to make up from the lost income due to the lack of work from Gregor, At one point, Grete plays the violin for everyone and while the guests are initially entertained, they soon become bored and largely ignore her. Gregor however listens intently to her playing. At one point, the boarders notice Gregor and throw a fit. They declare that they are leaving due to the state of the accommodations. Gregor;s father, in anger throws apples at Gregor, managing to lodge one into the soft part of his body.
This causes Gregor to become very sick and although he starts to improve, he ends up dying. The family as a result, moves to a smaller place in the country after dismissing their staff. This to me is what the story is really about. I doubt Kafka saw Gregor as an actual insect. I believe the metamorphosis he is really talking about is the one the family goes through. When Gregor loses his job and therefore the income the family relied on, they are all forced to make changes that allow them to live on their own without him.
I don't know if in Kafka's head the insect represents disease or disability in Gregor, but the result is the same, he is unable to work and provide for the family. Whatever his thoughts were while writing this novella, it is certainly an entertaining and fast read. I highly recommend this story as an introduction to Franz Kakfa.


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