What is the effectiveness of using an unconventional character (the bug) in Metamorphosis?

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the themes of "The Metamorphosis," by Franz Kafka, is the emptiness and frustration of the life of the average modern man.  Gregor Samsa, the story's protaganist, is a traveling salesman.  He describes his job, and life, as follows:

What an exhausting job I've picked on!  Traveling about day in, day, out.  It's much more irritating work than doing the actual business in the office, and on top of that there's the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying about train connections, the bad and irregular meals, casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends.

Kafka could have written a story describing Gregor's dull life, but instead he does something much more memorable: he describes Gregor's metamorphosis into a dung beetle.  Gregor becomes a helpless, disgusting creature who is despised (although pitied) by his own family.  The bug becomes a grotesque symbol of  Gregor's lonely and hopeless life.

Is this more effective than a straightforward description of modern alienation and futility?  That is a matter of opinion.  One thing is for sure: no reader ever forgets the image of Gregor the dung beetle.

Read the study guide:
The Metamorphosis

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