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Two of Kafkas' most predominate works, The Trial and The
Metamorphosis, are very similar in many aspects, yet also have unique
differences. Many of these similarities and differences are very obvious,
but also there are subtle comparisons that the reader might not pick up
while reading. One would think, after reading both stories, that the
differences outweigh the similarities, but that is not entirely true. Not
only should the reader view the style of the writing when comparing the two,
but also the setting and plot of the two stories. Both stories relate to
loneliness, frustration and individuals threatened by anonymous forces
beyond comprehension or control.
Although the struggle between these anonymous forces are a lot more
evident in The Metamorphosis, they are also seen throughout The Trial. In
The Metamorphosis, the anonymous force is whatever, or whoever, changed
Gregor Samsa into an insect. In The Trial, the struggle is more complex.
Joseph K struggles to find the true meaning behind his arrest. He searches
for answers related to his case, but no one can give him a clear answer as
to why he was arrested. Not even the inspector that arrested him,
"These gentlemen here and myself have no standing whatever in this affair
of yours, indeed we know hardly anything about it. We might wear the most
official uniforms and your case would not be a penny worse. I can't even
confirm that you are charged with an offense, or rather, I don't know
whether you are." (p 12)
As you can see, K has no luck getting information regarding his case. In
fact, from the time he was first put under arrest to when he was killed, he
never encountered the anonymous force that issued the arrest. The same is
true for The Metamorphosis. Gregor never finds out exactly what turned him
in to an insect, and why. This is the dominate issue in both stories, and a
prime example of similarity in Kafkas' stories.
Another similarity in the two stories is how Kafka used surrealism.
Surrealism in The Metamorphosis is obvious, as Gregor's sudden change into
a bug is quite surreal by itself. In The Trial, there are many subtle
examples. Perhaps the best example is the scene with the whipper.
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leaves the bank one day, he looks into the lumber room, where the warders
are getting whipped. He pleads for their freedom, but the whipper has no
sympathy and continues to whip them. When K comes back the next morning he
"As he passed the lumber-room again on his way out he could not resist
opening the door. And what confronted him, instead of the darkness he had
expected, bewildered him completely. Everything was still the same, exactly
as he had found it on opening the door the previous evening." (p 81)
This is just one example, Kafka used surrealism through The Trial, and his
Although just similarities have been mentioned, the two stories
also have unique differences. One such difference is the way the two
characters handle the anonymous force. In The Trial, Joseph K spends much
of his free time searching and investigating for information about his case.
This is completely different then Gregor in The Metamorphosis. Gregor does
not try to figure out why he has changed, in his case into an insect, he
just tries to accommodate his change and go on with his life. The reader
sees this when Gregor wakes up, realizes that he has turned into an insect,
yet his only concern is getting to work as soon as possible. This is just
one difference between the two books, there are many more.
The similarities and differences that have been discussed are just
a few of several between the stories. One can easily see that the style of
writing Kafka used is eminent in both stories. Kafkas other books, such as
The Castle, also use this unique style and share many similarities, and
also differences, with The Trial and The Metamorphosis. Kafkas style is
truly unique, as no other author has portrayed his feelings as well as
Kafka has. The feeling that no matter what you do, in an instant, something
can drastically change your life, forever.
Eggenschwiler, David. "'The Metamorphosis', Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus". Franz Kafka: Modern Critical Views. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. 199-219.
Emrich, Wilhelm. Franz Kafka: A Critical Study of His Writings. New York: Ungar, 1968.
Kafka, F. The Trial. Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. Introduction by George Steiner. New York, Schocken Books, 1992
----- Metamorphosis. Trans. A.L. Lloyd. New York: Vanguard Press, Inc., 1946.