November 17, 2010
Kafka and Fantasy
The Metamorphosis touches upon several of Freud’s dream theories. It presents the idea of dreams as a portrayal of wishes. Another one of Freud’s theories that is presented is the concept of condensation as the representation of an object or idea through an action or person in a dream or fantasy. In this story, the unconscious wishes of the characters are brought to light through Gregor Samsa’s transformation and visualized during the time that Gregor spends in a fantasy-like life as a cockroach. One problem with the text is that it does not clarify whether this is fantasy or reality.
For example, the story’s introduction shows that there is a thin line between reality and unconscious fantasy. When Gregor Samsa wakes up in his bed and first notices his metamorphosis, he instinctively relates this transformation to the fact that he must be dreaming. “What has happened to me?” (Kafka, 89) he wonders and then beings to realize while looking around his room that everything happens to be organized just as it is in real life. This produces his explanation that he must not be dreaming although his transformation is impossible. His thoughts then begin to stray from his awful situation and instead head towards his wish of a new job and life.
The concept of wish fulfillment manifests itself at the very beginning of the story when the conflict within Gregor is introduced. He is upset with his job and his boss. As he slowly wakes up, he can feel that something is wrong with his body, but the only thing that his mind is able to focus on is how the work at his job is: 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 bed and irregular meals, causal acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friend. The devil take it all! (Kafka, 90)
Only the love that he has for his family and his family’s need of a stable income have forced Gregor to keep his job. If this were not the case, Gregor exclaims, “I’d have given notice long ago, I’d have gone to the chief and told him exactly what I think of him” (90). His distaste for his job and his boss cause him to be thankful for the fact that he is unable to get out of bed this morning.
Not only is Gregor Samsa tired of his job and boss, but he is also tired of the daily routine of his family and the way his parents do not appreciate the work he puts in for them. He complains about his father’s sluggishness and unconsciously wishes that his parents would help the family, although they seem to grow slower and older daily. However, when Gregor metamorphoses into a bug, his father and the rest of the family must fend for themselves and take care of Gregor. The first the Gregor sees his father after his metamorphosis, his father has become the man he always wished for him to be: in “fine shape; dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons, such as bank messengers wear; his strong double chin bulged over the still high collar of his jacket;” (121) His father has noticeable changed into a working man, and Gregor’s dream of not being the one taking care of the entire family has finally come true. Instead of nurturing the family, his family members are now the people that he is relying on to nurture him.
Ironically enough, Gregor Samsa continues to try to fend for his family throughout the first couple days of living as a cockroach. The wish of not being the one in the family who everyone relies on is an unconscious wish, and because Gregor has been used to supporting his family throughout the years now, he feels the need to support them comes naturally to him. However, while Gregor’s wishes are fulfilled, he ends up sad, alone, and finally, dead. Freud claims that the dreamer actually censors his wishes because “he has no liking for them, in short. So that their fulfillment will...