Skepticism about Modern Life in "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka How does the text expreses skepticism about moderm life or a sense of loss?

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the OP is wondering if the text shows skepticism with the modern way of living (sales, business, desk jobs, boss, public transit) versus a more old-fashioned life (farming, working the land, answering to no man). Gregor is under a great deal of stress, not only from his job (a vocation that never existed in the past) but from his family, who expect him to support them (in the past, everyone would contribute to a family's well-being). Because of the modern conventions, Gregor is solely responsible for far too much; his mind is set for an older convention and he is feeling the pressure of modern life.

"Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there's the curse of travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them."
(Kafka, The Metamorphosis,

This is, of course, only one possible answer to the question, but I think it's a valid point; if Gregor was working from home, as he mentions, he might be more calm and collected, instead of being highly-strung and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In fact, the story itself might be read as an allegory for a nervous breakdown, with each part of the transformation equaling a part of Gregor losing his mind. I also think that his breakdown may well be a function of his ill-suitedness to living and working in the modern world; he seems almost more content to live as a bug than to take the train to work every day.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question here seems to have been cut off from a larger question...

Are we asking, "How does Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis' express skepticism about modern life or a sense of loss?" 

This is a pertinent question concerning a story detailing the failures of a man to maintain his place in a world that can easily do without him.

This fact, it seems, leads to an emotional-philosophical despair, rendered metaphorically, as Gregor is brought to face the idea that one's life may not have meaning outside an extremely small context (family) and so might be seen as being generally meaningless. At least this is one way to read the story.

...the story portrays a world that is hostile and perhaps absurd and that major themes in the story include father-son antagonism... alienation at work, isolation, and self-sacrifice.


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the opening says it all.

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

I think that the idea is modern life is depressing and confusing.  You can go to bed one day and wake up the next morning having no idea who you are.  I have had mornings like that.  We all find our own way through the chaos, but it is easy to feel lost.

Did he wake up as a bug?  Was he always a bug?  Did he just think he was a bug?  It is funny and scary and heart-breaking all at once.

Ultimately, we all find our own ways of dealing with the madness.  I think Kafka is trying to say: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the dominant themes of "The Metamorphosis" is alienation, a sense of disconnect from the outside world.  After Gregor transforms into an enormous insect, he feels isolated from society.  The reader could interpret that Gregor's isolation and sense of disconnect from his family and the outside world is a metaphor for how modern society isolates and alienates the individual.  Gregor's transformation renders him incapable of communication with his family or any sense of belonging or familial connection; in this sense, Kafka could be criticizing how the quick-paced life of modern society has damaged interpersonal relationships. 

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It demonstrates skepticism by showing us that Gregor is only valuable to his family and friends insofar as he can do things for them. Once he's no longer able to provide for his family, they begin to mistreat him, abuse him, and finally just abandon him. The same goes for his boss and his friends. Gregor was never valued just for being; he was only valued for what commodities and resources he could bring. That's Kafa's main issue with modern life: that it turns human beings into commodities and relationships into mere transactions. 

Read the study guide:
The Metamorphosis

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question