The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka, The Ambiguity Of Human Emotion

1599 words - 6 pages

A person is defined by more than his name, his occupation, or his family because he belongs to a greater universe where he is defined as a human, famous for imperfection and the conscience. However, the most obvious characteristic of humanity is governed by the dynamics of emotion. In Franz Kafka's novel The Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa finds himself falling out of society and losing touch with humanity, and his loss of identity is furthered by his inability to understand emotion. The narrator's presentation of human emotion, specifically kindness and anger, creates opposing tones of ambiguity and lucidity, a conflict that answers to a greater theme of the novel.Situations where a sense of kindness is evoked indicate the narrator's ambiguity. The first occurrence of this is when Grete brings Gregor food: "[In] the goodness of her heart...she brought him a whole selection of food, all set out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-decayed vegetables, bones from last night's supper...[and] a piece of cheese that Gregor would have called uneatable two days ago" (91). Gregor perceives her actions as benevolence, but the details suggest a different interpretation. The objects that Grete brings are garbage, which implies that giving food to Gregor is analogous to throwing it away. Thus, this passage, as presented by the narrator, can be interpreted in two different ways; it can be perceived from Gregor's point of view, in which the feeding is an act of kindness, or it can be seen from a more realistic point of view, in which the family is simply giving him food that would have been thrown out anyway. The fact that this passage can be read in two different ways, from personal perspective or an external perspective, indicates its ambiguous tone. This ambiguity is again portrayed when the sister cleans Gregor's room. Gregor observes that Grete "always [pushes] the chair back to the same place at the window and even [leaves] the inner casements open" (98) and believes that she does so to allow him to stare out the window. He believes that her actions stem from the goodness of her heart and that they are done for his comfort. However, in the same passage, the narrator also relays that "hardly was she in the room when she rushed to the window, without even taking time to shut the door...and as if she were almost suffocating tore the casements open with hasty fingers, standing then in the open draught for a while even in the bitterest cold and drawing deep breaths" (98). Despite the fact that Gregor believes in Grete's unselfish intentions, he watches her tear the windows open immediately when she enters his room. This leads to the conclusion that Grete leaves the inner casements unlocked in order to open the window more quickly and easily, suggesting that the stench of the room disgusts her; the unlocking of casements is not for Gregor's benefit, but for hers. The presentation of the same event leads to two different readings; kindness can be perceived from...

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