Metamorphosis and Postmodernism

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The twentieth century has been marked as a time of great suffering and advancement in human history. One product of this dynamic time is the theory of postmodernism. According to Thomas McEvilley, postmodernism happened in America after people started to realize that history was cruel and that people were not really progressing much. This directly discredited the pre-existing theory of modernism which took its ideology from the three pillars: progress, hierarchy of cultures, universals. McEvilley believes that the modernist ideals are just a way of creating a false reality, a world where no one is suffering and everything is beautiful. In his novel The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka uses the dramatic transformation of his character, Gregor, to mock the societal construct of the twentieth century. This very act of mockery goes against the three pillars of modernism, making this a postmodern work of literature.

The whole tone of the story is revealed in the very first sentence of the book. It reveals Gregor turning into this hideous vermin in such a nonchalant way that automatically the reader is thrown into absurd reality. As the reader tries to find a meaning, the final effect of the story is complete bewilderment. However, under a postmodern perspective, this very idea of meaninglessness starts to have meaning. It is clear from McEvilley’s study of history that there was a rise of pessimism in the wake of the tragedies of the twentieth century. Therefore, the very fact that the story is absurd is an attack to the modernist idea of progress because the whole story of Gregor’s metamorphosis has no fairytale conclusion. Instead, the reader is left in complete confusion with a deceptive “happy ending”.

Throughout the whole story, Kafka repeatedly mocks the societal hierarchy and norms to reveal the irrationality of modernist ideology. In the beginning, Gregor, not his father, is the main source of income for the family. Immediately this is a conflict to the...
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