1. The Metamorphosis
2. Franz Kafka
3. Set in the 20th century in the main character’s apartment.
4. Published in 1915
5. A significant theme in The Metamorphosis is the shift in power roles throughout the book and the effects on different characters. Similarly, the novella includes a less prominent theme of Gregor’s distance from God and his turning away from all things holy. Other themes include the lack of real connection in Gregor’s life, and the overwhelming sense of guilt that has taken over Gregor’s life.
1) The transfer of power is a recurring and prominent theme in The Metamorphosis, depicting the personal effects on each character as the power dynamic continues to shift. In the beginning, Kafka implies that Gregor was originally the head of the family and the most powerful. This is portrayed in Gregor providing for the family and in his portrait in a military uniform, a symbol of power and authority. Kafka shows us how powerful Gregor is through the love and admiration showered upon Gregor by his family in the beginning of the novella. However, once Gregor is seen in his lesser state, he is no longer bearable to be around and what once was adoration and dependence on Gregor has now turned to disgust and revulsion in his presence, therefore diminishing his previously standing power in the family. This power and responsibility is taken up by the father, imitating a reversal of the Oedipal stage in which power goes from father to son. Kafka shows us this whenever Gregor’s father obtains a suit from his new job that, much like Gregor’s previous suit, symbolizes his power in the family. Kafka then shows us the damaging effects of the reversal of the flow of power through the father’s suit becoming tattered and worn, along with the father himself being tired all the time. In doing so, Kafka comments on how unnatural this power dynamic is and how damaging it can be to a vessel no longer able to hold on to power and to power itself. While Gregor has been falling in power and his father gaining and losing power, Grete has slowly been climbing in power at a slow but unforgiving pace. The first power given to Grete is the obligation of feeding Gregor. In doing so, Grete feeds off of Gregor’s power and eventually drains him of it. Since Gregor later starves to death, we can assume that Grete has drained him of all his power and left him to wither away. Kafka depicts the vampire-like feast on Gregor by his sister and the stealing of power by his father. In the conclusion of the novella, the flow and stealing of power leave Gregor dead, the father worn and frayed, and Grete a powerful leader of the family.
2) Another important theme is the effects of isolation and detachment from intimacy. Gregor is a traveling salesman who doesn't make any meaningful connections and is only as loved by his family as he is useful. Kafka shows us what monsters we become in our own depravity of intimacy and human connection. Gregor is locked away by his family and...