Essay PreviewMore ↓
In Franz Kafka’s short story, Metamorphosis, the idea of existentialism is brought out in a subtle, yet definite way. Existentialism is defined as a belief in which an individual is ultimately in charge of placing meaning into their life, and that life alone is meaningless. They do not believe in any sort of ultimate power and focus much of their attention on concepts such as dread, boredom, freedom and nothingness. This philosophical literary movement emerged in the twentieth-century, when Kafka was establishing his writing style in regards to alienation and distorted anxiety. A mirror to his own personal lifestyle, this story follows the short and sad life of a man unable to break out of the bonds society has placed on him. These bonds are not only evident in the work place, but at home too. Being constantly used and abused while in his human form, Gregor’s lifestyle becomes complicated once he becomes a giant insect and is deemed useless. Conflicts and confusion arise primarily between Gregor and his sister Grete, his parents, and his work. Each of these three relationships has different moral and ethical complications defining them. However, it is important for one to keep in mind that Gregor’s metamorphosis has placed him into a position of opposition, and that he has minimal control over the events to take place. Conflicts will also occur between family members as they struggle with the decision of what to do with Gregor. In the end they all come to the agreement that maintaining his uselessness is slowly draining them and they must get rid of him.
Grete is a character who appears to have the most tolerance for Gregor shortly after his metamorphosis. Gregor was apparently rather fond of his sister and had hoped to finance her education in a conservatory. He was also rather mesmerized with her violin playing. His inability to follow through with these planned acts of kindness may have led to a faster deterioration of Grete’s maintenance of Gregor’s room. Although she could never get used to Gregor’s new freakish appearance, she was his sole provider throughout his life after the metamorphosis:
“It would not have surprised Gregor if she had not come in, as his
position … she actually jumped back and shut the door; a stranger
could easily have thought Gregor had been lying in wait for her
and meant to bite her.” (28)
How to Cite this Page
"Existentialism in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Aug 2018
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is a masterfully written short story about Gregor Samsa, a man who devotes his life to his family and work, for nothing in return. Only when he is transformed into a helpless beetle does he begin to develop a self-identity and understanding of the relationships around him. The underlying theme of The Metamorphosis is an existential view that says any given choice will govern the later course of a person's life, and that the person has ultimate will over making choices.... [tags: Metamorphosis essays]
615 words (1.8 pages)
- Existentialism in The Metamorphosis and The Hunger Artist Existentialism is a philosophy dealing with man's aloneness in the universe. Either there is no God or else God stands apart from man, leaving him free will to make his own choices. From this basic idea of man being alone in an uncertain and purposeless world, many related ideas have developed. One great worry of existentialist writers is that life is becoming too complicated and too impersonal. People become more and more involved with their work, which is taking them away from their friends, family, and culture.... [tags: Metamorphosis essays]
1397 words (4 pages)
- Existentialism in Kafka's Metamorphosis The book Metamorphosis, written by Franz Kafka, is based on the views of existentialism. One of these main views is alienation or estrangement which is demonstrated by Gregor's relationship with his family, his social life, and the way he lives his life after the metamorphosis. Although Gregor doesn't realize it, the relationship between him and his family is not good. Gregor is taking over his father's responsibilities leaving nothing for Gregor's father to be responsible for.... [tags: Metamorphosis essays]
406 words (1.2 pages)
- Many views of existentialism are exposed in Kafka's Metamorphosis. One of these main views is alienation or estrangement which is demonstrated by Gregor's relationship with his family, his social life, and the way he lives his life after the metamorphosis. Namely, it suggests that man is reduced to an insect by the modern world and his family; human nature is completely self absorbed. Kafka reflects a belief that the more generous and selfless one is, the worse one is treated. This view is in direct conflict with the way things should be; man, specifically Gregor should be treated in accordance to his actions.... [tags: Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis]
1497 words (4.3 pages)
- The Metamorphosis of the Family Before the caterpillar can transform into a butterfly, it must go through a metamorphosis. The cocoon in which the caterpillar hibernates is in fact just a conveyance towards another life form. Gregor, in Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis, is similarly a vehicle for such an important transformation, in this case the reformation of his family. The metamorphosis of Gregor facilitates the gradual change of his entire family, demonstrating that an outside source is sometimes needed in order to push people out of stagnation and into life.... [tags: Metamorphosis essays]
1160 words (3.3 pages)
- In this paper, I choose to speak about the theme of Identity or The Self occurring in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Hermann Hesse was a german poet, novelist and painter. He was born in 1877 at Cawl, Germany. In most of his works he explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. Franz Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories. He was born in 1883 at Prague, Czech Republic. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism.... [tags: Metamorphosis Essays, Siddhartha Essays]
1905 words (5.4 pages)
- ... Kafka knows the dangers of not living to bring meaning into one’s life and uses Gregor to illustrate this to the audience. Without meaning in life there is no reason to live because life alone is meaningless. A picture on Gregor’s wall causes him to remember the days before he had to drop everything he enjoyed in order to take care of his family. The picture is a picture of him as a “lieutenant ……smiling and worry free….demand[ing] respect for his bearing and uniform” (Kafka 24). Through the use of imagery Franz Kafka illustrates a time where Gregor had a job that he actually enjoyed.... [tags: story and character analysis]
1035 words (3 pages)
- ... She sees other women trapped inside of it at certain times of the day and becomes determined to set them free. She even goes as far as saying that she can smell the yellow coming off of the wallpaper (Gilman 7). As both of these previous examples have showcased more of the physical side of the results, the inner side of them is shown more in The Stranger and Hamlet. When Meursault’s mother dies, he doesn’t feel the amount of grief that is expected. After her funeral, his lack of feeling snowballs into some even bigger things.... [tags: The Breakfast Club, Hamlet, Metamorphosis]
1404 words (4 pages)
- “The world is, of course, nothing but our conception of it.” This quote, by Anton Chekhov, seems obvious and easy to relate to. However, it perfectly describes the concept of existentialism, which is neither obvious nor relatable. Existentialism is “a modern philosophical movement stressing the importance of personal experience and responsibility and the demands that they make on the individual, who is seen as a free agent in a deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe” (“Existentialism”).... [tags: Philosophy ]
2350 words (6.7 pages)
- Existentialism In our individual routines, each and every one of us strive to be the best that we are capable of being. How peculiar this is; we aim for similar goals, yet the methods we enact are unique. Just as no two people have the same fingerprint, no two have identical theories on how to live life. While some follow religious outlines to aspire to a level of moral excellence, others pursue different approaches. Toward the end of the Nineteenth-Century and on through the mid-Twentieth, a movement followed "existentialism," a philosophical theory of life, in order to achieve such a level.... [tags: essays research papers]
900 words (2.6 pages)
“But even if the sister, worn out by her job, ceased to ten to him as
she used to, there was no need for the mother’s intervention or for
Gregor to be at all neglected.” (40)
Ironically, the individual that was the most compassionate at the beginning of his metamorphosis becomes the least compassionate in the end. With a statement as simple and blunt as:
“We have to try to get rid of it.” (46)
Grete convinces her parents into coming to some sort of finalization and Gregor loses all will to live. He dies that very night and it would not be harsh to assume that this is due to the cold, societal reasoning of his sister. Kafka uses Grete to prove that unconditional love does not exist, or at least, cannot uphold itself. Grete cannot maintain Gregor’s life once she becomes sure that all her time and care will amount to nothing.
Grete’s final viewpoint of Gregor is mirrored by her father, but in a much more violent manner. Gregor’s father quickly assumes the societal role of “protector” of his daughter and wife, deeply misunderstanding Gregor and his intentions. There is a large conflict between the two in regards to understanding each other’s true intent.
“ ‘Mother fainted, but she’s better now, Gregor’s broken out.’
‘Just as I expected,’ said the father. ‘I keep telling you, but you
women just wont listen.’ ” (34)
This is also extremely evident when the father says:
“She’s absolutely right… if only he could understand us.” (46)
At this point in their lives, the family is trying to function as a smooth running family, each with a basic purpose and intent in life. They have re-conformed their lives after the metamorphosis to fit back into society and hide this glaring image of uselessness and disgust. Gregor is un-wittingly bringing up these ideas of existentialism that the family cannot stand to face. Both mother and father bury themselves in their work and try to forget their son. The mother says constantly that she wishes to see Gregor, but makes little effort to aid in Grete’s daily clean up of the room. When she does see him, she always collapses in fright. Despite this, the mother is able to overcome however terrible Gregor may appear, and however heavy the social pressures are, to protect Gregor from his father’s wild rampage with the apples.
“She begged the father to spare Gregor’s life.” (36)
These efforts prove fruitless, just like Grete’s, in the end. She also agrees with the family’s conclusion that Gregor’s useless nature can no longer be tolerated.
The arrival of the head clerk at the Samsa household is proves to be a rather intense moment for both family members and Gregory newly transformed. The head clerk is a clear symbol of Gregor’s workplace and the kind of atmosphere he works in. Kafka uses this character to his advantage by annoying the reader with long obnoxious speeches while Gregor struggles to just make it to the door of his room. The threats and pressure put on Gregor causes him to disregard his present condition as a large bug and worry more about getting to work instead:
“Mr. Samsa,” the head clerk... and neglecting—I just mention this
in passing—your professional responsibilities in an outrageous
His work only values him as they would a machine. The boss stands on a desk to talk down on them, showing his superiority to his employees. Gregor works long hours and deals with a long commute. All of this is done to pay off a debt that is not even his. I this way his family exploits him for their own personal gain. His family proves to be greedy, self-centered individuals who only valued Gregor while he was able to support them. They back up the efforts of the head clerk to coax him out of bed for fear that he may lose his job. Gregor understands that his worth in the family only comes from the money he brings in, but he only knows this at a subconscious level. He refuses to see his family as being at fault and focuses his dislike on the head clerk.
“Did the head clerk himself have to come, and did the whole
Innocent family have to be….” (12)
Because of the need to comply with the rules of society, Gregor feels he must keep his job as a sales man, despite the treatment he suffers from. Having never missed a day of work previously, it is appalling to consider the speeches of the head clerk as true. For something as simple as missing the beginning of a single day of work to receive reprimands such as this:
“I see your incredible obstinacy and have completely lost any
desire to intercede on your behalf….” (14)
Conflict arises when Gregor exposes himself and rushes after the head clerk to scare him out of his house. This is one of very few instances where Gregor (as a person inside an insect shell) actively, and with purpose, rebels against the circumstances he disagrees with. Once Gregor comes to terms with the severity of his condition the thought of work, which was previously so prominent in his mind, disappears.
Existentialism requires an individual to rise above the depressive conditions of humanity through personal articulation. The metamorphosis of Gregor allowed him to recognize the fact that he was being suppressed by society. His exterior form caused his family to question their own lifestyles and re-adapt, shunning that which was useless to them. Kafka’s book, Metamorphosis, causes readers to question their own lives to this very day in regards to living with purpose and intent. Doing so may cause conflict as one fights against the will of society, but with it comes liberation and a whole new understanding of existentialism.