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Search For Identity In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

1248 words - 5 pages

It seems to be very rare to stumble upon a honest, crystal-clear self reflection and criticism, a true necroscopy of one’s self, because it is much easier to “beholdest [..] the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye” [Matthew 7:3]. Perhaps it is only through the eyes of a vermin that Franz Kafka was finally able to open up completely to his father but, most importantly, to himself, reaching a level of frankness that could not even be attained in “Letter to His Father”. In “The Metamorphosis”, the theme of humanness and identity is revealed through the eyes of Gregor Samsa, who, in his claustrophobic, anxiety-ridden state of being trapped in the body of a vermin, experiences having his whole conception of identity being changed while watching his life slip away in front of his eyes, as his family contributes to his final act of giving up.
Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” completely messes with any conceptions of humanness and identity a reader might hold, and perfectly captures the element of anxiety that emerges simultaneously with accepting that you do not know yourself at all. At first, the book seems like an abandonment of common sense, a completely absurd situation, nothing more than an “entomological fantasy”. When the main character, Gregor Samsa “woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.” This statement appears to be absolutely nonsensical, since vermin are not typically regarded as having consciousness or the mental capacity required to assess situations. In “The Metamorphosis”, Franz Kafka proposes the idea that our memory is the leading factor in determining our identification. Simply put, since Gregor Samsa remembers having been a human, he should be treated as a human. However, the notion of identity in “The Metamorphosis” does not rely entirely on memory, but also on the despair to belong somewhere, to be categorized. For Gregor, it was effortless and comprehensible to be a human. The regulations of the society dictated that he had to be the breadwinner of the family, and, for an extensive period in his life, he was nothing more than that. Right from the opening of “The Metamorphosis”, we learn that “Samsa was a travelling salesman”, as if that was the defining factor of his life. For Gregor Samsa in his human form, the monotonous profession was a blessing, because it permitted him to never have to question the motives of his existence. Ironically, the metamorphosis was possibly the first step closer to becoming more human-like and challenging Gregor’s outlook of the world.
Despite the few aforementioned benefits of the transformation, it is still irrefutable that Gregor Samsa struggled with watching his life slip away in front of his eyes. The metamorphosis was likely a metaphor for slowly turning insane, and his matter-of-fact attitude only further indicates an emotional withdrawal. For instance, a quote from the first chapter of...

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