Corruption of the Family and Society Exposed in Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka's existentialistic perspective on the meaning of life (or rather, the lack thereof), is clearly portrayed through Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis. Kafka's belief that there is no meaning to life nor any reason to hold an optimistic outlook towards life, is a dominant force in the story. The author is able to create conflict by portraying Gregor as being the complete opposite of his own personal beliefs: Kafka's almost paradoxical belief that, though there is no meaning to life, the individual can create one for himself, is entirely missed by Gregor. Kafka's weighty emphasis on individualism and the corruption that society and the familial infrastructure represent is demonstrated through Gregor's interactions with the members of his own family and those of society. This leads to the development of Gregor Samsa as more than a sympathetic character, and makes Metamorphosis a novella of fantastical, fable-like proportions, complete with a moral and a superficially happy ending.
Kafka's Metamorphosis was written in 1912, in the midst of a German cultural, social, and economic metamorphosis. Industrialization had reached Germany, and changed the mindset of the people. The increasing number of factorial jobs available, the numbing shifts and schedules, . . . - all this came with industrialization, and it was to this that Kafka was writing in protest. Through Gregor, Kafka demonstrates the dehumanization that industrialization was bringing to Germany, to the extent that there was little to no difference between humans and animals. By turning Gregor's physical being into an unnamed and abhorrent bug, Kafka emphasizes the similarities between th...
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... followed by a period of "vacant and peaceful meditation" (Kafka, 127), in which he reflects with new insight his past life, and, while in the process of making tentative plans for the future, dies a peaceful death. Gregor's death, followed so closely by his dawning comprehension of individuality, closes the story to a full and complete circle, which began with his physical transformation into a bug and ended with his humanization.
Kafka uses Gregor Samsa as almost a fable-istic character, as if to warn his reader "Don't be like Gregor! Follow your own paths or die a death like a dung bug!" Kafka's emphasis on individualism and how the corruption that society and familial infrastructure affects a human being develops this story into one with moralistic consequences for the reader, persuading him to review his own priorities and to reset them accordingly.
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