Consider the theme of transformation in Metamorphosis and The Yellow Wallpaper.
Apart from the very apparent theme of transformation that runs through both stories there are also many underlying themes connected with transformation, not just physical but also mental. Metamorphosis sees Gregor wake up one morning physically transformed overnight into a huge insect, by the description given by Kafka, possibly similar in appearance to a cockroach, although the description given does not allow the reader to make any definite identification. He has been the breadwinner of the family, working as a travelling salesman to keep a roof over the heads of his mother, father and younger sister. This is a service that he has got no thanks or recognition for from his parents who do nothing towards the up keep of the household and just expect Gregor to take care of everything.
The Yellow Wallpaper, in contrast, sees the nameless protagonist narrating her confinement to an old nursery in a large house, due to a temporary nervous depression, by her doctor husband. The enforced rest is Gilman’s own version of Silas Weir Mitchell’s treatment of prolonged rest and lack of stimulation, a treatment that Gilman herself had been subjected to. Her mental state gradually transforms throughout the story, until finally she becomes reduced to a childlike state, crawling round the edge of the room, in a relatively sinister way, not even recognising her husband, or stopping when he gets in her way.
Gregor’s relationship with his family undergoes a severe transformation following his unfortunate situation. He goes from being someone who has at least been needed, even though he has not been appreciated, by his family, to something that is despised, feared and neglected. His family themselves also undergo some transformation in the way they conduct themselves. With the misfortune of Gregor they have to become more responsible for themselves, and self sufficient if they are to retain their home. It also considers the transformation through the length of the story of Grete from a girl into a young woman, realised by her parents at the very end of the story.
When comparing the two stories there are differences in who undergoes changes. The Yellow Wallpaper sees solely the protagonist changing both mentally and physically, in contrast Metamorphosis sees Gregor mainly physically changing and having to adapt to life as a bug and it is his family that change mentally to cope with the situation they have found themselves thrust into.
It would be expected that through his family’s treatment of Gregor that his love and devotion for them would morph into a type of hatred or resentment, however his want and need to be with them never changes throughout. Even his last service is selfless and he dies for the good of his family after hearing his sister uncontrollably upset about the creature that has taken the place of her brother. “We must try to get rid of it, it will be the death of both of you, I can see that coming. When one has to work as hard as we do, all of us, one can’t stand this continual torment at home on top of it. At least I can’t stand it any longer.” (Kafka 2005)
Gregor had always been close to his sister and had indeed been hoping to send her to study music. In his sister’s words he finally realises that he will never be accepted back into the fold of the family and will only continue to cause them hurt if he continues to stay. The only choice he has is to give in to the infection that has set in from the wound of the apple embedded in his back, and to pass away quietly. On the realisation that he is dead the Samsas almost seem to have a small attack of conscience, they huddle together and shed tears in the privacy of the parent’s bedroom and Mrs Samsa nearly stops the charwoman brushing his corpse aside. “‘I should say so,’ said the charwoman, proving her words by pushing Gregor’s corpse to one side with her broomstick. Mrs Samsa...
Bibliography: Alter, R. (1991). Necessary Angels, Tradition and modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem, Harvard University Press: Massachusetts.
Gilman, C.P. (1998). The Yellow Wallpaper, Bedford Books: Boston.
Golden, C.J. (1992). The Captive Imagination, The Feminist Press: New York.
Golden, C.J. (2004). The Yellow Wallpaper, A Sourcebook and Critical Edition, Routledge: Oxton.
Janouch, G. (1968). Conversations With Kafka, The Trinity Press: London.
Kafka, F. (2005). Metamorphosis, Vintage: London.
Mendoza, R.G. (1986). Outside Humanity, A Study of Kafka’s Fiction, University Press of America: Lanham.
Nabokov, V. ( 1983). Lectures on Literature, Pan Books Ltd: London.
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