Discuss the significance of the abject in Metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis is a remarkable novel that has spanned numerous themes; from alienation to the absurdity of life. And one of the major themes is that of the abject. The abject, by definition, describes something brought low in position or condition, lacking in courage, or simply rejected. In short, the abject is a recurring theme throughout Metamorphosis – both literally; in the form of Gregor’s grotesque physical form, and metaphorically; in the way Gregor reacts to and is treated by his family. Thus the significance of the abject on Gregor and his family will be the basis of analysis in this essay. Firstly, the physical sense of the abject is presented almost immediately in Gregor’s metamorphosis into a massive insect in the first sentence. To most people, insects belong to the outdoors – any insect venturing indoors would most likely be faced with a large can of pesticide. Thus, in choosing to present Gregor’s family with a human-sized insect, in their house, on a bed – Kafka has effectively given them the most repulsive image conceivable, enough for them to initially fear and eventually reject Gregor’s new form altogether. Thus this strong manifestation of the physical abject is not only the kickstarter of the story, but also the basis for the following events. Moreover, the rejection of his physical form leads Gregor to become a social pariah. In the beginning, Gregor himself does not feel ashamed of his altered physical condition; he knows in an intellectual sort of way that he is a “horrible insect”, but fails to comprehend the enormity of the change and his family’s reaction to it. But as time progressed, he starts to feel more keenly his social abjectness. The way his sister would rush to the window every time she entered his room, his mother fainting dead away when she saw him crawling on the wall – Gregor begins to make changes to his routine, even covering himself with a cloth to spare his...
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