Philosophical Context in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis

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Kafka never fully embraced Zionism, and he remained ambivalent toward Judaism. He was more openly interested in anarchism and socialism, but was not committed to either philosophy because he refused to completely align himself with an established worldview.

-Kafka was exposed to Modernism.
-Modernism was a movement during the late 19th century and early twentieth century of scientific, technological and industrial development. Modernists shared a desire to create literature that was new and different. Their belief was to capture the reality of modern life and that rapid change cause uncertainty, disjointedness, and alienation. -Kafka wrote about the absurdity of existence, the alienating experience of modern life, and the cruelty of authoritarian power. -The word Kafkaesque has passed into the literature to describe an unsettling, disorienting, nightmarish world that is at once both fearful and menacing in its ambiguity and complexity.

Kafka's views on Humanity

Speaking with his friend Max Brod, Kafka once explained that he thought human beings were trapped in a hopeless world. This belief never leaves Kafka's writing, and it is present in The Metamorphosis, where Gregor's only option, in the end, is to die. Ironically, the story ends on an optimistic note, as the family puts itself back together.

-Kafka never studied philosophy but he was friends with several intellectuals and read works by famous philosophers. -Several people think of Kafka as an existentialist.
-Existentialism is a 20th-century philosophical movement, which assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves.

-The early 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is regarded as the father of existentialism.

-Franz Kafka was an important literary author in existentialism. His story, which is surreal, is one of many modernist literary works that was influenced by existentialist philosophy.

-The Metamorphosis advances the existential view of the responsibility of the individual to maintain a balance between work and leisure. If one chooses to devote their life entirely to work, they are no more than droning insects, yet if they devote their lives to leisure, they are no better off.

-Gregor initially chooses society over himself, which in turn transformed him into the working drone he was. After his physical transformation, he is forced reassert his focus to himself, and society abandons him.

Nietzche and Kierkgaard

-Kierkegaard and Nietzsche considered the role of making free choices, Kierkegaard's knight of faith and Nietzsche's Übermensch are representative of people who exhibit Freedom and define the nature of their own existence. 

-Nietzsche's ideal individual invents his or her own values and creates the terms under which they excel. 

-Gregor's monstrous insect form represents Gregor's radical refusal to submit to society's values like Nietzschean Übermensch.

Martin Buber

-Kafka was friends with philosopher and existentialist Martin Buber. They would send each other letters and these letters were later published in Bubers The letters of Martin Buber: a life of dialogue.

Together they discussed existentialism and were part of a literary circle.

They were both jewish and anarchists.

-Shared existentialist rejection of achieving real satisfaction in life. Characters in Kafka’s tales are left wanting something, needing a connection to the world that can never be made complete.

Sigmund Freud
-Kafka was familiar with the newly published works of Sigmund Freud.

-However, he was no Freudian disciple and wrote negatively of psychoanalytic theory.

-But Gregor's conflict with his father and the dream-like quality of the story realtes to Freud's analysis of dreams and the Oedipal complex:
- A subconscious sexual desire in a child, especially a male child, for the parent of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by hostility to...
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