The Metamorphosis

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Critique of Literary Elements and the Psychological Analysis of Symbolism in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ Sarah Long
October 13, 2010
ENG 125 Introduction to Literature
Deborah Duff

In the world of literature, there are few books that can affect ones life the way that Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” affected mine. There are numerous themes that flow through “The Metamorphosis”, and countless elements of symbolism, that in most cases could not be deciphered with out the critical study of Kafka’s life experiences and outlooks. Although a clear understanding of Kafka as a man is beneficial and ultimately necessary for the literary analysis of “The Metamorphosis”, Kafka wrote it with out the knowledge that one day his words would be interpreted on a level beyond the intelligence of the commonly educated man or woman. This fact allows anyone to enter the world of Gregor Samsa completely blind to the forensics behind the story, and still be able to proceed with out restraint (Gray 86). “The Metamorphosis” is fueled with compassion, and built on the basic aspects of life that cause pain and incite fear in humans; change, rejection, paralysis (which is technically the loss of control of one’s self), failure, loneliness, and death. “The Metamorphosis” is ultimately a tale of death, although literary scholars have considered it an allegory between good and evil, and fantasy and reality. In Lectures on Literature, Vladimir Nabokov concludes in regard to “The Metamorphosis” that, “any outstanding work of art is a fantasy insofar as it reflects the unique world of a unique individual.” (Nabokov 252). Although Nabokov was referring to “The Metamorphosis” when he stated the above, his statement can be used to give a basic understanding of all of Kafka’s works, which are often analyzed side by side for the sheer fact that all of his works contain and maintain the same overall themes. In addition to Nabokov’s analysis of “The Metamorphosis”, there is a plethora of other interpretations, which is the case in regard to all of Kafka’s works. In The Commentator's Despair, by Stanley Corngold, over 130 interpretations of “The Metamorphosis” are discussed, including the often overlooked Freudian analysis, a psycho-analytical perspective that shines light on the very important role that gender and sexuality play in deciphering the spine behind Gregor’s character, which stem from issues with both maternal and paternal control (Flores 259), and further solidifies the parallels between Gregor and Kafka. The Freudian approach to analyzing Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is, in my opinion, the most affective way of actually deciphering and understanding what Kafka was doing with this story. Although the artistic moments need to be acknowledged with the same decree, I don’t feel that they can properly express the multiple layers of thought put into the construction of “The Metamorphosis”. Kafka would disagree with me though, he considered psychoanalysis “a helpless error”, and felt that Freud’s theories were “approximate, very rough pictures, which did not do justice to details, or what is more, to the essence of the matter.” (Nabokov 256). The most obvious theme that Corngold discusses is how Kafka uses Gregor’s misfortune to display society's treatment of those who are different. It is these elements of social conformity and the lessons that each individual who reads it takes from it, that gives “The Metamorphosis” the proper literary elements to be properly defined, in my opinion, as a fable. Further speculation concludes that Kafka used “The Metamorphosis” to sarcastically approach the absurdity of human existence; this factor has allowed “The Metamorphosis” to be analyzed from an existential perspective. Whatever route of interpretation is favored, none of them will make complete sense with out looking at Kafka’s very unique style of composing a piece of literature. “The Metamorphosis” was one of the few...
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