The Metamorphosis Questions and Answers
by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis book cover
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Is Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis a comedy or tragedy?

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The Metamorphosis describes a tragic event in the Samsa family, yet on further examination, Kafka’s story can be read as a dark, surreal twist on tragicomedy. Plot, narrative structure, and the deft interplay between comic and tragic moments all come together to create a complex, nuanced tale.

According to A Handbook to Literature by Harmon and Holman, the tragicomedy as found in Shakespeare’s plays is

A play that employs a plot suitable to tragedy but ends happily, like a comedy.

Although Kafka’s story was originally written as short narrative fiction, the traditional three-act structure lends itself to theatrical drama as well, and The Metamorphosis has been adapted for stage and film.

By the first part of the above definition, the plot of The Metamorphosis is certainly a tragedy: Gregor, the main breadwinner of the Samsa family, is turned into a large insect and is therefore unable to do his job or even be a part of the family.

Gregor’s transformation into an insect heightens his main flaw...

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kc4u | Student

The Metamorphosis is a story by Kafka that is often considered in the light of Absurdism and going by the portrayal of human condition in the existentialist-absurdist, it is a tragi-comic vision. As Chaplin would have said, from a distance where the particulars cannot be seen, it looks like comedy; the more you close in, the more it resembles a tragedy.But, this Kafka story is difficult to conceive as a comedy.

The element of ridicule operative on Gregor is entirely coming from the family, but does not get any authorial support. The illogical and abrupt transformation can be seen as a parody of the Ovidian model and hence a comedy, but the way the aftermaths of this transformation have been worked out, it is nothing but tragedy. This is tragedy in its modern sense, where there is no ethical frame at work whatsoever. It is  suffering without any doing. There are Biblically evocative scenes in the story such as the moment when the family members throw apple on the insect that Gregor has turned into. There are connotations of Original Sin and a replacement of reason with animal instinct that underlines the Fall in this tragic predicament. Gregor's tragedy also lies in him being stripped from his language. He cannot even express his condition. He is left to die a very sad and lonely death.