The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Essay

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka Essay

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In The Metamorphosis, Kafka establishes, through his religious imagery and gospel-esque episodic narration, the character of Gregor Samsa simultaneously as a kind of inverse Messianic figure and a god-like artist, relating the two and thus turning the conventional concept of the literary hero on its ear. The structure of the novel reflects that of the Gospel of Mark in that it is narrated in individual events, and in this it is something of a Künstlerroman - that is, the real metamorphosis is over the course of the novel, rather than just at the beginning, and that change is a heightened sensitivity to the world in an artistic sense. The motif of change is a rather theological one as well: we see it in a religious sense, in the form of renewal and redemption, as Samsa is left a better, stronger and spiritually inhuman individual by his metamorphosis. What the reader knows of Samsa's life is very limited: only the last few months of his life are actually narrated, and even these are only revealed in vignettes. For this reason, the actual change in Gregor is subtle - much like that of Christ - and Gregor's status as the novel's hero is a humble one. His martyrdom for others creates in the reader an intense empathy for his plight, and elevates the physically weak, timid Samsa to the level of a demigod in the reader's eyes. Gregor's sacrifice and development of a newfound humanity even in his beastliness, coupled with the book's obscure, fractured style, detail the creation of at once an artistic visionary and a glorious Messiah, establishing Gregor as a Christ-like figure and the ultimate literary hero, one whose bodily weakness only strengthens his intellectual weight and the reader's adoration of him.
The novel begins with a cha...


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...utors. In the same way that Christ cries out on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (NRSV, Lk. 23.34), Samsa's thoughts upon his death, "full of tenderness and love, (go) back to his family" (Kafka 48). His death has an air of religious melodrama sharpened by its poignant simplicity and its Christlike anti-grandeur. It also brings him peace: no longer can he be hurt by his world or the knowledge that his mere existence is damaging to his world.
Samsa leaves, however, an indelible mark on both his family and the reader. His audiences, both within the text and outside, feel that the insignificance of his death is a travesty. Samsa's potential, opened to him in his metamorphosis, is fully realized: he sends a message to the mortal world that in order to become immortal, they must open themselves up to humanity with a change.

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