The Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka: Political agenda or utter fantasy?

I am currently reading an eBook that was sent to me to read by a publishers, and I am nearly finished so that review will be up here soon. The book is focussed around a funeral and the impact that the death of a loved one has on those who were close to her, the characters all feel alienated with themselves, life and those around them. Which got me thinking about the same topics and all I could think of was Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. 

In The Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa is transformed into a cockroach and then struggles to adapt to his new life. His family and those who visit his house are not particularly bothered by this change, they don’t question its impossibility but instead worry about money. How will they know fund their lifestyle that the breadwinner is incapacitated? The father and sister will have to do jobs they don’t like now Gregor isn’t doing the job he didn’t like. They will have to rent some of the spare rooms out to lodgers to create extra income. Hire a cheaper maid to do the cleaning.

There was a complete disregard for Gregor’s feelings. He was the one who had metamorphosed overnight into a bug that was unable to communicate with anyone, unable to protect and defend himself against his family; and yet his family don’t care. He is completed isolated and alienated (similar to Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Ryeis unable to do anything about it. Although alienated, Kafka appears to be critiquing society, with particular reference to Marxism and the exploited worker. Gregor has worked hard to support his family and seems unaware that they take him for granted. he just assumes that his family are incapable of working and doesn’t question their actions, which is interesting to compare at the end of the novella when the family does work. They found work easily, it tires them out and exhausts them, but that is nothing more than what the work did to Gregor. His metamorphosis could potentially have been cause by his physical exertion in order to provide for his family. He felt so alienated from his family, that he physically transformed so that he is also alienated from humanity. He is unable to interact with others and hides behind his sofa to protect himself. This alienation is just a demonstration and exaggeration of the alienation he felt as a human.

It's a bugs life.

It’s a bugs life.

I don’t want to put people off. Although this book is a bit of a criticism on humanity and the treatment of individuals, it is not all doom and gloom. Gregor himself seems unaware of his exploitation and so remains relatively optimistic throughout the novel which shows that not everyone is willing to take and give nothing back. Moreover the text is so full of the impossible, implausible and the absurd that it is hard to take the novella as a serious criticism of society. The possibility of a human metamorphosing into a giant cockroach is next to none and so the text has to be taken as a piece of fantasy. The story never explains why Gregor transformed and so I guess my theory is as good as the next.

Despite the often pessimistic outlook on life, the novella is truly a fantastic piece of literature. Whether it has a political agenda or whether it should be read as nothing more than the story of an overworked man who wakes up as a bug one morning – it is still bursting with value and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Review: Wise Children by Angela Carter

This has to be, undoubtedly, one of the most confusing novels I have ever read. Parties, performances, A midsummer’s nights dream, America, the bard, twins, twins and even more twins. The carnivalesque mystique that presents itself through the novel is both extremely entertaining to read and aids the fairytale, surreal and magical tones that Carter has written in. But I think more importantly, the garish and hectic lives the characters live is a reflection of theatricality in itself.

The narrative follows the lives of Nora and Dora Chance, twins who both want to make it in showbiz like the rest of their family. The events that occur in the story are flashbacks and so the story in itself is confused as it does not follow a linear time scale and is able to jump around depending on the moods and thoughts of the female twins. The endless stream of characters; people they knew in childhood, family, relatives, husbands of actresses, illegitimate children of actors, film producers and comedians does not make this an easy text to read. If it was not for the family tree provided at the back of the book I would have been stumped from chapter 1.

But despite this chaotic and frenzied tone often overwhelming the reader I feel that it is because the events that occur are so interesting and peculiar that you cannot put the book down. Carter has reached the boundaries of what magical realism can do in literature. Carnivalesque and clocks. The simple combination of the everyday with the extraordinary is what makes it so fantastic. The frequent references to Shakespeare help the reader to make their own connections with the Chance sisters and the events that occur in their estranged lives. Again bringing something that is relatable into the mythical.

My final thought on this book is the beauty that seems to transcend the harsh realities of the text. Although Nora and Dora have lived through very hard times, lost people they loved and more often than not been seen as outsiders and not accepted into other people’s lives; they are still happy. They are still willing to grab life by the hand it pull themselves along with it. Persistence: a great coping mechanism. They seek pleasures in the small everyday things in life and although hoping for the world, the are happy to settle with a house in London.

 

"What a joy it is to dance and sing!"

“What a joy it is to dance and sing!”