Metamorphosis Analysis

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Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is so strikingly absurd that it has engendered countless essays dissecting every possible rational and irrational aspect of the book. One such essay is entitled "Kafka's Obscurity" by Ralph Freedman in which he delves down into the pages of The Metamorphosis and ferrets out the esoteric aspects of Kafka's writing. Freedman postulates that Gregor Samsa progresses through several transformations: a transformation of spatial relations, a transformation of time, and a transformation of self consciousness, with his conscious mutation having an antithetical effect on the family opposite to that of Gregor. His conjectures are, for the most part, fairly accurate; Gregor devolves in both his spatial awareness and his consciousness. However, Freedman also asserts that after Gregor's father throws the wounding apple, Gregor loses his sense of time. While his hypothesis certainly appears erudite and insightful, there really is no evidence within the book itself to determine whether if Gregor has a deteriorating sense of time. If Freedman had only written about Gregor's spatial and conscious degradation, then his entire thesis would be accurate.

Freedman states that Kafka "portrays shifts in spatial relations which suddenly circumscribe Gregor's movements and world." ( 131). Due to Gregor's transformation, he has immense difficulty because he has to "swing himself . . . with all his might" just to liberate himself from the bed (Kafka 9). Freedman recognizes that since getting out of bed is such a formidable task to Gregor, Gregor's spatial world has already shrunk immensely. Until he manages to fling himself out of bed, Gregor's habitable world consists only of the bed. Another limitation to the world that Gregor is capable of inhabiting in his current state is foreshadowed when Gregor "fixed his eyes as sharply as possible on the window" but is not able to distinguish anything because of "the morning fog" ( Kafka 7). Freedman affirms in his essay that "transformations . . . affect Gregor more substantially; his vision adjusts to his new perspectives" (132). The morning fog that Gregor could not see through is yet another extension of the breakdown of Gregor's spatial universe. Gregor is no longer let outside of the apartment in which his family lives, and, additionally, he is rarely let outside of his own room. Because he has not progressed very far into the breakdown of his consciousness, he maintains his ability to see immediately after his transformation, yet he is not able to see beyond the window due to the fog. His restricted sphere of inhabitance is paralleled by his capacity to see; Gregor's vision deteriorates as "from day to day he saw things even a short distance away less and less distinctly" (Kafka 28). Eventually Gregor is not able to differentiate between any objects outside his window so that it is as if "he was looking out of his window into a desert where the gray sky and the gray earth were indistinguishably fused" (Kafka 28) which impeccably parallels Gregor's own small world. Therefore, Freedman is correct in his supposition that Gregor's spatial universe deteriorates until it becomes severely truncated.

While there are copious amounts of evidence to support the spatial breakdown of Gregor's world, there is little evidence to support the seeming "obliteration of time" (Freedman 132) for Gregor. One could possibly interpret the fact that "Gregor spent the days and nights almost entirely without sleep" (Kafka 40) as evidence marking the obfuscation of time for Gregor. However, his insomnia could stem from the pain emanating from the grievous wound on his back or, even more simply, from a lack of desire to go to sleep or to rest. In fact, there is evidence to disprove that Gregor ever loses his sense of time because "every day around dusk the living-room door – which he was in the habit of watching closely for an hour or two beforehand - was opened, so that, lying in the darkness...
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