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Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis And James Baldwin's Sonny's Blues

2271 words - 10 pages

There are many factors that lead to the development of an individual’s identity. Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” illustrates an extreme change in Gregor Samsa’s external identity and the overall outward effect it has on the development of his family. While James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” illustrates a young man struggling to find his identity while being pushed around by what society and his family wants him to be. Both of these characters exhibit an underlying struggle of alienation but both also demonstrate a craving for belongingness. This conflict of trying to belong to something as well as satisfying the needs of society, has directly impacted their own individuality and the lives of the people around them.
Gregor Samsa, a hard working salesman providing for his family in need, has sacrifice his own freedom for the sake of the survival of his family. As a provider, his family is expecting him to work, be successful, and bring home the wealth. Although Gregor doesn’t enjoy his tedious job in the slightest, he still agrees to do it. This is more influenced by his father’s debt rather than his own morals. “If it weren’t for my parents, I would have quit long ago, I would have gone to the boss and told him off” (Kafka 2). This shows that he is a frustrated individual. Gregor is someone who would likely hold in his own personal feelings to preserve the family name. A night of nightmares later, Gregor awakes to see his many little legs flailing about. He isn’t initially shocked by this horrid transformation and however terrible it looks to him, his primary focus is how is he going to get to work? In spite of everything, he is still in the mindset of working no matter what the cost. After all, he doesn’t want to lose the trust of his family and not be there for them. The family is so use to the fact that every day prior to the day of his transformation that Gregor would rise up to go to work, that they were originally dumbfounded by the simple thought that Gregor was still in his bed about to be late for work. The family’s discovery of his new form just led to more complications. Unlike Gregor, the family was in shock and they completely rejected the fact that this was their provider. Gregor believes nothing has truly been altered, which is partially true since his human mind and his goals are still present, but sadly his family doesn’t understand him. In Ramon G. Mendoza’s analytical paper titled “The Human Vermin: Kafka’s Metaphor for Existence and Alienation”, he declares that because of the loss of a human voice, “this is precisely what makes Gregor’s condition so pathetic, and his isolation so total” (Mendoza 4). Gregor is now stripped of all of his humanity. However, Gregor’s state of mind remained almost concrete even after the family’s rejection. He is still the salesman trying to go to work and trying hard to not get fired. He wants to show the world that he is ready to sacrifice even his bodily image, to protect this family from...

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