In "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka, what is the theme or point? How is this an allegory?

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monica45 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

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In The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka wanted to represent the absurdity of the condition of human life, the sense of alienation of human existence, the controversial antagonism between father and son, and as a consequence, the unfulfilled desire to escape from this absurd and entrapped existence.

Already from the first lines of the short story, the reader becomes aware of the grotesque absurd reality which is experienced by the protagonist, Gregor Samsa:

"AS GREGOR SAMSA awoke one morning out of restless dreams, he found himself in bed, transformed into a gargantuan pest. He lay on his hard, armored back and saw, as he raised his head a little, his domed, brown belly, divided into arched segments"

It is immediately possible to understand the dream-like and absurd quality of the situation, in which an ordinary man finds himself turned into a horrible insect. By creating this unusual metamorphis which intermingles with ordinary life and people, Kafka aimed at representing the absurdity of the human existence, but also a deep sense of alienation. Gregor Samsa feels detached and alienated from his life, his job and his family and the result is the refusal to be like the other ones. Unfortunatly instead of finding a positive way out, he turns into a repulsive useless enormous bug.

The process of alienation creates monsters, this is what Kafka seems to suggest, and there is no possible solution but death. As a matter of fact the short-story ends with Gregor's death, thrown away by the family, who after his transformation was unable to accept him and understand the reasons of his anguish and sufferings. In this sense The Metamorphosis also represents a further development of the father and son conflict theme, as it was described in Kafka's Letter to his Father. Gregor's father, in fact, appears as the most heartless and insensitive among the family members, responsible of his son's destruction. His total lack of pity contributes to crate the vision of a grotesque, absurd, inhuman world.

Realizing the absurdity and the alienation, Kafka's heroes - as Gregor - may fell a urgent desire to escape, to change completely their status, to be removed by their sense of paralysis; Kafka' s pessimism, however, does not provide a happy and succesful solution; the theme of escapism shows the only possibility in death or in absurd waiting which brings to nothing.

So the point in Kafka's short story is the allegorical and absurd representation of his pessimistic vision of life.

The short story is highly symbolic. The variety of thematic approaches - all linked to the theme of the absurd - creates a pattern of  references which exemplify the idea of human life as experienced by the author. The represenation of the dream-like, surreal and grotesque l dimension of every day life strengthens the idea of a nightmarish humanity. As the famous painting by  E. Munch, The Scream, Gregor Samsa ' s eternal but silent  scream (symbolized by his transformation and his inability to speak) are the allegory of the impossibilty of communicating among human beings and of the useless efforts of those who try to fight against this condition.


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