Metamorphosis - Essay

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Metamorphosis is a richly layered and textured story that is the very definition of a polysemic text that it is open to numerous interpretations. The two most credible readings that apply to this novella are readings of a Marxist and psychoanalytical type. Historically these two interpretations have dominated assessments of the story since its initial publication. Deeper analysis clearly supports each interpretation of Metamorphosis. The common ground in both readings is the marginalization of the individual in society. Kafka’s context growing up in Prague at the turn of the twentieth century was exposed to a world of changing values; of the influence of industrialization on society: and the growing discontent amongst the working class. Against this backdrop, and combined with family tensions Kafka creates ‘Metamorphosis’. Initially Metamorphosis appears to be simply a tale about a man who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into an insect. A Marxist reading however interprets the story as an extended metaphor that highlights the dehumanization and exploitation of the working class and can be read as a type of social parable. The protagonist Gregor Samsa symbolises the working class (proletariat), and his unnamed manager represents the controlling middle class - the bourgeoisie. Gregor’s inability to work due to his metamorphosis creates conflict between him and his manager who demands Gregor put aside all personal concerns, and continue to work. This conflict represents the impersonal and dehumanizing structure of class relations. A Marxist reading identifies Gregor as the ‘exploited’. He is forced to work as a travelling salesman, supporting his family and paying off his father’s debt from a failed business venture. While lying in bed, he reflects that: “Day in, day out…I’ve got the torture of travelling…about changing trains, eating miserable food at all hours…” His discontent with his daily labour is highlighted via adjectives: “torture,”...
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