Franz Kafka's Novella, The Metamorphosis Essay

1395 words - 6 pages

One of the saddest aspects of Franz Kafka's novella, The Metamorphosis, concerns the fact that young Gregor Samsa genuinely cares about this family, working hard to support them, even though they do little for themselves. On the surface, Kafka's 1916 novella, seems to be just a tale of Gregor morphing into a cockroach, but, a closer reading with Marx and Engels economic theories in mind, reveals an imposing metaphor that gives the improbable story a great deal of relevance to the structure of Marxist society. Samsa, the protagonist, signifies the proletariat, or the working class, and his unnamed manager represents the bourgeoisie. The conflict that arises between the two after Gregor's metamorphosis renders him unable to work represents the impersonal and dehumanizing structure of class relations. Kafka's prose emphasizes the economic effects on human relationships, therefore, by analyzing the representations of Gregor, we can gain insight into many of the ideas the writer is trying to convey.
Within the first few pages of the novella, we as readers, quickly discover the proletariat in the story. He labors as a traveling salesman, while trying to support his family and pay off his father's debt due to a failed business venture. While lying in bed, he comments on his life as a traveling sales man “Day in, day out-- on the road...I've got the torture of traveling worrying about changing trains, eating miserable food, at all hours...”(Kafka 4). The words he chooses to describe his job, “torture”, “worrying,” “miserable” dramatically show his discontent with his daily labor. Having no option other then to continue working at his monotonous job because he is a member of the class of modern wage labors, who, have no means of production on there own are reduced to selling their labor-power in order to live. Gregor knows that his only means of survival is to continue laboring, even though the labor gives him no benefit other then a meager paycheck. “If I didn't hold back from my parents' sake, I would have quit long ago”(Kafka 4). It is only economic necessity that keeps him going to work everyday. Conflicts exists in Gregor's life between his human desire to work for his own direct benefit and the economic demands that alienate him from his labor by forcing him to work for someone else.
The imagery of Gregor transforming into giant insect signifies his family's view of Gregor as a lowly, despicable thing. This has the effect of better helping the audience understand why the family treats Gregor so poorly. Gregor was merely a tool the family uses to survive. From the opening of The Metamorphosis, Gregor's character depicts him as somewhat pathetic. Gregor's enslavement by his family, portrays him, but as a family member, but as a source of income. The first to abandon Gregor was the manager, the bourgeoisie. According to Marx and Engels, the bourgeoisie has resolved personal worth into exchange value. Alone in his room, Gregor tries to rebuild...

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