The Metamorphosis eNotes Lesson Plan

Franz Kafka

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The Metamorphosis eNotes Lesson Plan

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Excerpt From this Document

Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis is a story of a young man who wakes up to find he has transformed into a grotesque, human-sized insect. Gregor Samsa’s physical transformation is not a literary exaggeration or a dream; it is a literal and real event in his life. From the first sentence, the story requires what Coleridge termed “the willing suspension of disbelief” as readers are drawn into Gregor’s new state of being. The story is both horrible and sad, developing from how Gregor deals with his catastrophic condition and how his family reacts to him after his metamorphosis.

The Metamorphosis is lauded as one of Kafka’s finest pieces of writing. It portrays in understated horror the struggles some encounter living in modern society as they strive for acceptance and assistance during times of need, and it depicts the dynamics of destructive family relationships. Using such a disturbing transformation to explain human psychology is both clever and engrossing. The disturbingly bizarre nature of this story is an example of the sort of writing that turned Kafka’s last name into the oft-used adjective “Kafkaesque,” which typically means “a nightmarish situation which most people can somehow relate to, although strongly surreal. With an ethereal, "evil", omnipotent power floating just beyond the senses.” The term “Kafkaesque” is so ubiquitous, it was used as the title of an episode of the Emmy-winning, popular TV show Breaking Bad.

Gregor’s life in The Metamorphosis is bleak, but he struggles to survive and overcome his horrible situation, demonstrating courage and determination. In this respect, Gregor’s life seems to reflect Kafka’s, and it can be assumed that the similarity is not coincidental. Kafka struggled with clinical depression, social anxiety, and numerous physical ailments, including tuberculosis, but he continued to strive in the face of hopelessness to recover from them. The onset of Kafka’s tuberculosis seems to have inspired many of the plot points in The Metamorphosis: Kafka had to be fully supported by his family due to his illness, just as Gregor must rely on his family after his transformation. In the story, Gregor’s sister assumes the role of caretaker in the same way Kafka’s sister did in caring for him.

Other parallels can be drawn between Kafka and Gregor Samsa. Like Gregor, Kafka had to deal with an overbearing, abusive father. Kafka’s father beat him, objected to his writing, and regarded him as a disappointment and an utter failure. In contrast, others liked Kafka and found him to be attractive and appealing. Regardless of how others viewed him, Kafka was deeply insecure as the result of his father’s rejection. He worried that he appeared to be revolting, a fear clearly mirrored in the depiction of Gregor-turned-insect in The Metamorphosis.

Despite having written and published surprisingly little in his short life, Kafka’s illustrative works of existentialism, the expressionist movement, and surrealism continue to be published, and they have established him as a major writer of the twentieth century. The influence of Kafka can be seen in the writings of great twentieth-century authors such as Albert Camus and Jorge Luis Borges. The Nobel-Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez referred to Kafka’s influence in his memoir, Living to Tell the Tale, stating that after reading the first sentence of The Metamorphosis, the course of his writing was forever changed.

The Metamorphosis is Kafka’s longest story and one of his most frequently analyzed works.First published in 1915 in German as Die Verwandlung, The Metamorphosis is also sometimes translated into English as The Transformation.Since the novella’s initial publication, it has been translated into English multiple times. In recent years, The Metamorphosis has been adapted in films and stage and radio productions and has made its way into pop culture through the TV show The Simpsons.

A note regarding translation: There are numerous English translations of The Metamorphosis. This lesson plan uses the one by M.A. Roberts from the Prestwick House series Literary Touchstone Classics.

About this Document

eNotes lesson plans have been written, tested, and approved by working classroom teachers. The main components of each plan are the following:

  • An in-depth introductory lecture
  • Discussion questions
  • Vocabulary lists
  • Chapter-by-chapter study questions
  • A multiple-choice test
  • Essay questions

Each plan is divided into a teacher and a student edition. The teacher edition provides complete answer keys.