9 April 2014
A Psychoanalytical Criticism of The Metamorphosis
The deeper meaning of “The Metamorphosis”, by Frank Kafka, can be interpreted in many ways depending on critical theory is used to examine it. From a feminist criticism, one can observe how Gregor’s dominance as a male diminishes after he becomes a bug as his sister’s strength and role in the family grows stronger. From a biographical criticism, one can compare and contrast the traits of Gregor and the people around him with that of Kafka’s own life and his relationships. However, the focus of this essay will be applying a psychoanalytical criticism to the characters in “The Metamorphosis”, using the studies of Sigmund Freud to approach the understanding of the story.
If we look at the characters in “The Metamorphosis” as whole from a psychoanalytical point of view, the Samsa family as a whole can be seen as the mind and each member representing different components of it. The Mother represents the impulsive part of the mind that operates only along the lines of self pleasure and does not take into account of any consequences; the id. Gregor’s sister, Grete, represents the portion of the mind that aims for perfection by acting on morals and punishing misbehavior with feelings of guilt; the superego. The Father represents the logical portion of the mind that acts accordingly to reality in order to meet the needs of both the id and the superego in realistic ways; the ego. The mind as a whole, which consists of the Mother, Father, and Grete, will be tested throughout the story as they are under constant stress and pressure by the stressor: Gregor. In “FREUD: A Very Short Introduction”, Anthony Storr describes Freud’s perceived structure of the mind; “Freud’s model of the mind consisted of three parts: ego, id, and superego,” (Storr). The id is described as primitive, unorganized, and emotional: ‘a realm of the illogical’ (Storr). In Freud’s own words, “It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of instinctive needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle,” (Freud). The id can be seen as the “devil” on one’s shoulder when trying to make a decision and will try to influence the user act on instinct and pleasure. In “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor’s mother represents the id of the mind by always showing a desire to love, care for, and protect her son even when it’s not always the appropriate thing to do. From the beginning of the story, Gregor’s Mother’s actions already show that she is very protective of her son, especially when Gregor’s boss comes to their house to find out why Gregor is late for work. She tells the boss, “He isn’t well, believe me, sir. How otherwise would Gregor miss a train! The boy has no head for anything but business. I’m sure he’s not feeling well,” (Kafka). In this situation, the impulsive choice of the mother would be to protect her son from being scolded or even getting into trouble with the boss, but the logical choice would be to let Gregor deal with his problem on his own so that he can learn from the experience and remember to not let it happen again. However, Gregor’s Mother’s decision to act on impulse and motherly instinct shows that she is a representation of the id in the mind. On the other hand, Grete represents a part of the mind that is opposite of what the Mother represents; the superego. With the id acting on instinct and impulse for self pleasure, the superego strives for perfection by abiding by strict morals and codes and making one feel guilt whenever there is a slight feeling of succumbing to the desires of the id. Storr gives an example explaining how the superego can influence someone; “The superego can be regarded as the product of repeated conditioning by parental injunctions and criticism: for example, ‘You must clean your teeth after...
Cited: Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. London: Penguin, 2006. Print.
Kahn, Michael. Basic Freud: Psychoanalytic Thought for the Twenty First Century. New
York: Basic, 2002. Print.
Storr, Anthony. Freud: Anthony Storr. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document