Marxist Perspective on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

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Marxist Perspective on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

On the surface, Franz Kafka's 1916 novella, The Metamorphosis, seems to be just a tale of a man who woke up one morning to find himself transformed into an insect. But, a closer reading with Marx and Engel's economic theories in mind reveals an overarching metaphor that gives the improbable story a great deal of relevance to the structure of society. Gregor Samsa, the protagonist, signifies the proletariat, or the working class, and his unnamed manager represents the bourgeoisie. The conflict that arises between the two after Gregor's metamorphosis renders him unable to work represents the impersonal and dehumanizing structure of class relations. The metaphor of the story can be divided into three main parts (although they overlap within the story.) First, Kafka establishes the characters and the economic classes which they represent. Then, he details Gregor's metamorphosis and the way in which it impedes his labor. Finally, he describes the final results of the worker's inability to work: abandonment by his family and death. Although a man cannot literally be transformed into an insect, he can, for one reason or another, become unable to work. Kafka's novella, therefore, is a fantastic portrayal of a realistic scenario and provides us with a valuable insight into the struggles between economic classes.

Within the first few pages of the novella, we as readers quickly discover Gregor's role as the proletariat in the story. He is forced to labor as a traveling salesman, trying to support his family and pay off his father's debt from a failed business venture. While lying in bed, he comments on his life as a traveling salesman, "Day in, day out--on the road... I've got t...

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Although the exact story told in Kafka's The Metamorphosis could not occur outside the realm of fantasy, it represents the very real scenario of a worker being abandoned by his employer and family after becoming unable to work and support them financially. By looking at the novella from a Marxist perspective, we see that the underlying theme of the story is a conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Because economics supercede everything else in capitalistic society, a citizen who is unable to labor and earn wages is quickly abandoned. And, the result of this abandonment is often (as it was in Gregor Samsa's case) death.

Works Cited

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Bantam, 1986.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. "The Communist Manifesto." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 769-773.
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