The Metamorphosis is the story of a commercial traveler, Gregor Samsa,
that one morning awoke turned into a gigantic insect. It is no dream
but, simply and plainly, a real metamorphosis with no rhetoric in
between. Facing this incredible fact, Kafka does not do any realistic
concessions and keeps the new condition of the character to the end.
That makes of The metamorphosis a hard work of fiction, in the way of
Odyssey (with which, besides, it is closely related) or in the way of
the Medieval fairy tales, specially those in which the wicked witch
turns The Prince Charming into a hideous animal.
>From the other side, the work, that belongs to a trilogy about marriage
in relation to the individual, the family and the so-ciety written by
Kafka, has a highly autobiographical contain. In The Judgment the
subject is the engagement assumed as a treason to the literary calling;
in The metamorphosis there is a view of marriage and family relations
from a masochistic and incestuous perspective; in The Trial, it is the
settlement of accounts, related with the incapacity of accomplishing the
acquired compro-mises, according to an unwritten law, he must pay. In
the three cases, the story ends with the protagonist's death.
The Metamorphosis is built on a fiction level with two faces, Crime and
Punishment by Dostoevsky and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch,
superposed in a way they get in contact with a real level with two faces
too, the family relations and his dreams of Felice. By the merging of
theses two levels, Kafka gets a fantastic reality which allows him to
express his deepest dreams and desires in relation with marriage and sex
in a poetic language that turns The Metamorphosis into a classic of
erotism, aspect not considered until now. (Such a pleiad, Kafka, Sacher-
Masoch and Dostoesky, met in The Metamorphosis turns into a height of
masochism this work).
The Metamorphosis has three parts: the first one describes both the
transformation of Gregory and his family's reaction to this respect; the
second part shows the new cotidianity of the fami-liar group whose
fragile estability crush with Gregory and sis-ter's bringing face to
face; and the last part, where we attend Gregory's frustrated attemp of
reconquering his sister, ends with his death.
The foreground onto which Kafka builds his work is Dostoevsky's novel.
This one brings to him a textual base that he lightly, mainly through
substitutions, varies for adapting it to the intentions of his own
story. For the first part of The Meta-morphosis, Kafka takes three
awakenings of Raskolnikov -as an animal, as a murderer and as a guilty
man-. With them he assembles the first scenes of the narrative. Taken
into account the scenes Kafka selects from Crime and Punishment, the
traditio-nal version of an angelical Gregory, victim of both family and
society, results a suspicious one.
The Metamorphosis begins with the awakening of Gregory as an insect. In
a first paragraph that makes part of the unforgetable beginnings of
literature, Kafka describes it: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from
uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic
insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when
he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly
divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could
hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His
numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his
bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."
This extraordinary beginning is a variant of the beginning of the third
chapter of the first part of Crime and Punishment, where Dostoevsky
describes the state of abandonment and loneliness at which Raskolnikov,
whom he portraits as a withdrawed-into-his-shell animal,...
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