The Metamorphosis

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The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka


The Metamorphosis can quite easily be one of Franz Kafka's best works of literature- one of the best in Existentialist literature. The author shows the struggle of human existence- the problem of living in modern society- through the narrator.


Gregor Samsa wakes in his bed and discovers he has transformed into a some kind of a giant bug; he struggles to find what actually has happened to him, he looks around his small room and everything looks normal to him however it gets a weird feeling it may not be so. He tries to roll over and go back to sleep in order to forget about what has happened, but because of the shape of his back, he can only rock from side to side.

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

The opening line of the novella recounts the bizarre event of Gregor's transformation in a quite straightforward manner, the author used the contrasting picture of an unusual situation and ordinary things of life to create an absurd world which is chilly, chaotic rather than ordered and rational.

Gregor gets used to his insect body and his family feeds him (mainly the wrong things, but they don't care) and removes furniture from his room so that he can freely move around and climb the walls. But they don't want to see his ugly form, he is confined to his room, and usually hides under the sofa when his sister enters with his food, to spare her sensibilities (in contrast to the sweetly human insect Gregor, his sister is not considerate at all, but increasingly antagonistic and cruel); his brutish father chases him back by throwing apples at him when he once comes out. The family members also have to take jobs for they can no longer sponge off the successful son. And the situation breaks down, and the family disintegrates.

The problem of alienation is explored to depth in the novella- Gregor become insect and behaviour of his family members change towards him, he may transformed to something unusual at the core he is still the same however he faces problem of acceptance by society due to his transformed appearance.

The novella raises some very basic and profound questions of human existence- alienation, identity, being. Kafka questions all our presuppositions of life- success, social position, money, that a healthy life is characterized by a steadily improving standard of living and a socially-acceptable appearance which we think matter most- through Gregor's metamorphosis. These presuppositions of our life pose more serious questions- which are very chilly and which can rip us apart from any sense of our (inauthentic) existence.

The author robs Gregor-the protagonist- of every sense of his inauthentic existence by stealing off all assumptions of his life, now he is striped down to the very core of his existence. The protagonist is encountered with basic problems of human existence- what it takes to be- which we encounter in our lives- if we once appeared socially acceptable and now have ceased to do so, are we still in fact ourselves Was the socially-acceptable persona in fact ourselves, or is there more essential self-ness in the being we have now become Or have we, in fact, been nobody in the first place, and are we nobody still


Gregor Samsa can make us think more deeply about our own identity, about the fluidity of what we take to be stable and fixed, and about the perils and miracles of our own metamorphoses. Kafka shows us that how the values of conventional society are warped due to our inability to look beyond the surface to the human being inside.


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.”

With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing – though absurdly comic – meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, “Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.”

Metamorphosis (by Benedict Cumberbatch)