A Portrait of Franz Kafka's Life in his Fictional Story, Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka seems to have had a tough time growing up with his father, who was apparently a domineering, unapproachable man. A few years before Franz's untimely death, he wrote a long letter to his father in an attempt to address many of the lingering issues which had plagued their relationship. He may have tried through his fictional writing to reach his father prior to the letter, using a kind of "metaphor code." Franz Kafka became other characters representing himself in his fiction. In The Metamorphosis, his character, whose name is Gregor Samsa, becomes a giant beetle as the result of an unexplained transformation at the very beginning. The fact that the author is actually the main character is so cleverly disguised and the details so carefully presented that this encoded message becomes an entertaining literary work in its own right. While many of Kafka's short stories, e.g. The Judgment, A Country Doctor, appear to be vignettes, The Metamorphosis is more or less a surreal self-portrait of Franz's life and his troubled relationship with his family. The concepts of psychological abuse, entrapment and escape are ongoing themes in Kafka's work, and The Metamorphosis contains several examples that specifically relate to his father.
The main character takes the role as caretaker of the family, is transformed into a bug and left to eventually die in his room. In The Metamorphosis, the main character awakens from "troubled dreams" into an even more troubled reality. At the beginning, the rain beating against the window of his room gives him a depressed, melancholy feeling. This sets the tone for the entire story.
According to Franz Kafka, his father could be psychologically abusive. He constantly told his son that he would never succeed, and although he allowed Franz to make his own career decision, he never encouraged him to become a writer. He wanted his son to become a shop owner like himself, perhaps an example of how his ego was anxious to extend itself. Franz Kafka said, "My writing was all about you; all I did there, after all, was to bemoan what I could not bemoan upon your breast." (Kafka 87) In his letter to his father, Franz dealt with many issues that were referred to indirectly in The Metamorphosis. Among other subjects, his fear of marriage, his desire for escape and independence are all disguised as symbols and metaphors. His general lack of communication with his father is exemplified throughout both The Metamorphosis and his letter. For anyone wanting to unravel his writings, this letter can serve as a "road map."
A short temper is evident in Mr. Samsa, the father in The Metamorphosis, who represents Franz's real father. In a fictional setting that bears a strong resemblance to the Kafka family surroundings, his impatience flares upon his first encounter with his disfigured son. He chases Gregor back to his room and as he reaches the door,...