Unsettling Dreams: An Analysis of The Metamorphosis
Through his essay “Competing Theories of Identity in The Metamorphosis”, Kevin W. Sweeny explores three different concepts of identity that are brought to light in Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis. While our social role and conscious mind help establish our character, ultimately our material body determines how we identify, to ourselves and the general public. Through The Metamorphosis, Kafka explores how losing control of the body can conflict the mind, and decimate social status, as well as alter the very essence of one’s identity.
When he awakes one morning to find his human body replaced with that of a bug in Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa does not immediately realize the drastic repercussions of this event; that with the loss of his human body comes the loss of his identity. No longer is he Gregor, but instead is a “monstrous vermin” (1). He has become unable to control his physical being and thus his actions, which are fundamental aspects of personal characterization. Gregor’s body begins to control all aspects of his life. It literally denies him the ability to speak, his voice intruded by an “insistent distressed chirping” (5). It is this loss of communication that stems Gregor's detachment from humanity. He is incapable of voicing his thoughts and opinions, which is the very foundation of human interaction When Gregor first tries to respond to his mother's calls, his voice is badly garbled, broken up with chirps; when he attempts to defend himself against the Office Manager’s accusations with a long, pleading speech, the Manager’s only response is to claim Gregor’s voice as that “of an animal" (10). From this moment on, Gregor refrains from any attempt at speech. This absence of communication emphasizes the conflict between his conscious and the physical being it now inhabits; that of a bug. Also emphasizing this mind-body disconnect is Kafka’s focus on “[Gregor’s] little...
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