The Theme Of Identity In Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha And Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis

2490 words - 10 pages


In this paper, I choose to speak about the theme of Identity or The Self occurring in Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Hermann Hesse was a german poet, novelist and painter. He was born in 1877 at Cawl, Germany. In most of his works he explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. Franz Kafka was a German-language writer of novels and short stories. He was born in 1883 at Prague, Czech Republic. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism.

When we talk about The Self, the question of Identity automatically comes up. In my opinion, The Self is something ...view middle of the document...

In this book we see how the family and people actually equate the identity with the body, the form. For long, the family hopes for the so called ‘return’ of Gregor but by the end of the book they come to the conclusion that the bug is not Gregor at all, he is a mere insect because he does not care about them and has no consideration for them. For them, no such thing as the Self or the Being exists and Gregor also fails to communicate to them that he is still the same being. They identify Gregor by his human body, his consideration and care for them.

“You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we have believed for so long, that is truly our real misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If it were Gregor, he would have long ago realized that a communal life among human beings is not possible with such an animal and would have gone away voluntarily.”

As Warren Breckman in his lecture ‘In His Time And In Ours’ says, “The failure of communication drives a wedge between his inner life, which remains essentially "human," and the exterior world of appearances, in which he is now judged to be what he appears to be: an insect. When his mother finally addresses loving words directly to him his response is that of a human being craving affection. But with rare exceptions such as that, his existence and his sense of self as vermin are confirmed by the absence or failure of communication.”

After reading Siddhartha, I felt that there was liberation in finding oneself. The importance of individualism is depicted in the book. Everyone has this urge to know the Truth of life, to find the Self, the meaning for his or her Being. When I read Metamorphosis, I realized how much Gregor’s urge to know his Being, to assert his own identity, was suppressed because of his love for the family, his duties towards them.

“If I didn’t hold back for my parents’ sake, I would’ve quit ages ago.”

The world, by which I mean the society, is an institution where one has to compromise with their individual self, their true identity. In Metamorphosis we see how Gregor has a job that he doesn’t like, but he does it in order to earn money to provide for his family and pay off his father’s debts. He has the choice of listening to his inner voice and doing what he wants, but it gets suppressed because he is supposed to be a dutiful, responsible son. His own Being is forgotten in the world of duties and responsibilities. There is a similar instance in the book Siddhartha. Referring to the chapter Sansara, we see how at first Siddhartha is enjoying his living in the society because his Self is still dominant, he does not let duties and responsibilities burden him. But later, as time passes by, he gets engrossed in the institution of society and his inner voice- the Self- starts to get suppressed. We see how he gets trapped in relationships and is unable to assert his individual self and listen to his true inner voice.

To quote, “When we have not trained our...

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