How does Kafka Comment on 20th Century Capitalism Throughout the Novel and what Symbolism does he Use to Depict it
Firstly, it is important to point out that I don’t believe that the individual characters symbolize a certain social or political group in the novel - the characters’ actions and responses to each other in the in the novel do though, representing a social or political group in a specific situation. For example, the majority of people agree that the father in “Metamorphosis” represents the powerful capitalist society, being the dominant male figure. If one tries to follow this concept throughout the novel, they will encounter many contradictions. While the father does seem powerful at points, such as when he drives out the lodgers, he is in the start portrayed as a rather idle figure, allowing his son to take the dominant position as the family’s income earner. This detail, which could be of great significance, is many times overlooked. All the novel’s links to capitalism are in the author’s choice of words, the concocted situations and in the character’s interaction.
The time period in which “Metamorphosis” was written in (1912) is very significant, because of its historical impact on the novel and the particular views of the time. America was becoming increasingly prosperous with its capitalist views, and was seen by the world as ‘the land of opportunity’, where anyone could be wealthy. Between 1880 and 1930, approximately 2,800,000 Germans and Czechs immigrated to America, in search of a better life, possibly causing resentment and bitterness from those left behind for the capitalist way of life.
Kafka criticizes the capitalist views by portraying situations where the family responds to Gregor’s transformation with the capitalist way of thinking. He endeavours to illustrate the dehumanising nature of work in a capitalist society, and how when money is of primary importance, one who does not work becomes worthless, seen by others, even family members, as a burden. Kafka aims to show in the novel how the capitalist society hides its ‘dirt’ and doesn’t accept its faults. Gregor, who has become of no use after his transformation, is hidden in his dark bedroom, with filth and old furniture, showing the shame and embarrassment he is to his family. This could perhaps be a representation of the capitalist society, and America in the early 1910s, with its ‘perfect’ image of wealth and success, ‘hiding’ those who did not fulfil this image of perfection. This idea of the importance of one’s ‘image’ is further emphasised by the lodgers, possibly the most significant representation of capitalism, who are obsessive about order and cleanliness of the house – a situation that is accentuated by the contrast with the disorder in Gregor’s room. We also witness Gregor being rejected by his own family, who now have become ingrained the capitalist society, as Gregor does not provide for them anymore. Even Gregor’s closest link,...