The Grotesque in Kafka's Metamorphosis

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Much of the grotesque in Metamorphosis stems from the fact that Gregor’s transformation is partial. While he is physically an insect on the exterior, he retains a human mind inside. Hence, Gregor is mentally aware of what is happening to him and his body. This hybridity, in terms of having an insect body but a human mind, contributes greatly to the grotesque image of the main character. As quoted from Bakhtin, what is happening to Gregor is an “unfinished metamorphosis” whereby he is not fully insect, yet not fully human either. The “in-between-ness” of such a transformation can be seen from many parts of the texts where the insect Gregor, has characteristics of the human Gregor. At the beginning of the novella, for instance, Gregor tried to roll onto his right side, “shutting his eyes to keep from seeing his struggling legs. Other instances include Gregor not being able to “suppress a smile” and him feeling “a cold shiver run through him”. The insect Gregor can also talk and think to himself and he experiences human emotions like joy, shock and apprehension. Throughout the text, Gregor is constantly “saying” something to himself. He also “noted with joy” that the food brought by Greta was to his liking. All these human characteristics and feelings show us that Gregor is still mentally human. We find this hybridity disgusting because we cannot seem to place Gregor in a clearly defined category. As proposed by Mary Douglas, “matter out of place” is seen as a source of pollution and dirt. Since Gregor is neither completely human nor insect, he cannot be placed into a socially determined form of classification and hence he is seen by us as something dirty and, by extension, disgusting. The ambivalence regarding the sort of creature Gregor is creates a sense of repulsion in us. Another reason why we find his hybrid state disgusting is perhaps of the size of the insect. The fact that the creature is the size of a human and not the typical size of one’s average insect...
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