Marxist Lens Analysis of the Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a novella that follows the story of Gregor Samsa who, one day, wakes up as an insect. On the surface, it’s just a story about a man who’s transformed into a bug; but, when deeper analyzed, you come to understand that it’s a about a man who was always a bug conflicted by his identity in a class struggle between what is known as the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Kafka’s work was written in a time in history when the struggles between the classes were becoming more defined due to the rise of industrialization and other changing social structures. This story can best be interpreted though a Marxist lens. In Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, his Marxist ideology comes through in the way the characters represent the struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie classes during the turn of the century.
It’s apparent in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis -as with any author- that his own personal experiences influence his work. His socio-economic status matches up with that of the Samsa’s. Kafka had a Jewish, German-speaking family. They were middle-class and lived in Prague, which was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. Where Kafka lived, there was disunity between Czech- and German-speaking people. The Jewish community found themselves stuck in between, which probably left Kafka in search of an identity considering he was fluent in both languages. Gregor had a similar experience when his father was no longer able to work and he had to support the family. They went from being upper-middle class to lower-middle class and perhaps even poor. The family was conflicted by their transition from the bourgeoisie to the proletarian class.
The proletariat is a class of wage earners who are dependent for support on daily or casual employment; the working class. The bourgeoisie -in Marxist theory- is the class that, in contrast to the proletariat class, is primarily concerned with property values (Dictionary.com). The Samsa’s were a bourgeois family until their father could no longer work, yet had trouble with the change. They maintained their old lifestyle despite their new position, keeping a maid even though she’s not necessary and a burden on the family’s finances. “But Gregor understood easily that it was not only consideration for him which prevented their moving…what mainly prevented the family from moving was their complete hopelessness and the thought that they had been struck by a misfortune as none of their relatives and acquaintances had ever been hit. What the world demands of poor people they did to the utmost of their ability […] but for anything more than this they did not have the strength.”(Kafka). The family had a hard time letting go of their class status; they were used to a middle class lifestyle and had trouble adjusting to their new financial conditions.
Gregor took it upon himself to fulfil his father’s role as the breadwinner for the family....