The Metamorphosis Questions and Answers
by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis book cover
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What is the relevance of The Metamorphosis to the twenty-first century, and what place does it have in world literature?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Metamorphosis is one of the most durable works of fiction both because of the simple conceit, that of a man turned into a bug, and Franz Kafka’s deftly executed narrative in which the omniscient third-person narrator presents Gregor Samsa’s transformation in a completely straightforward manner. While the reader would expect to identify with the protagonist, the horror of considering him as a cockroach initially challenges our ability to empathize. In contrast, we can more easily understand the reactions of his family members, but at the same time, they are so unlikable that we feel ashamed to take their side. The more we learn about his family’s treatment of Gregor while he was human, the more we return to identifying with him. Thus, the story becomes a metaphor for alienation, loneliness, and surviving emotional abuse—conditions with which many people have some experience.

The concept of human-animal transformation is ancient and universal, and animal symbolism is equally...

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