Metamorphosis Summary / Analysis
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.
gt;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 he 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). PART ONE 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 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, is: “He waked up late next day after a broken sleep.
But his sleep had not refreshed; he waked up bilious, irritable, ill-tempered, and looked with hatred at his room. It was a tiny cupboard of a room about six paces in length. It had a poverty-stricken appearance with its dusty yellow paper peeling off the walls… “.
.. He (Raskolnikov) had got completely away from everyone, like a tortoise in its shell… “.
The Metamorphosis insect is born when Kafka, using one of his most powerful tools: literalness, turns the “vermin”, the “bug”, the “creep”, the “aesthetic louse” Raskolnikov is into a “real insect”.Through literalness, Kafka dismantles the metaphore that supports the “moral insect” leaving just the “insect” without qualifiers. In the world of literature, never before had metapho-re been explored to such limits. Diving to words essence, Kafka makes of his style a style hard like a ock and transparent like fresh water. There is a theory at the origin of the carved Raskolnikov’s tragedy according to which people are divided in “ordinary” and “extraordinary people”, with the last one allowed to transgress law when it interposes on the road of a glorious destiny. The case of Napoleon particularly seduced Raskolnikov, who wanted to test his theory through a moral esperiment and, by this way, decide whether Raskolnikov himself was a Napoleon or a “trembling animal”.
However, Raskolnikov was not a Napoleon but a “aesthetic louse”: “A Napoleon would not get in under an ld pawnbroker’s bed! “. Kafka takes his character from Raskolnikov’s wombs but he does not make of him his equal for, if Raskolnikov dreams of being apoleon, Gregory, according to the portrait hung on one of the Samsa’s family dinning room walls, is Napoleon: “Right opposite Gregor on the wall hung a photograph of himself in military service, as a lieutenant, hand on sword, a carefree smile on his face, inviting one to respect his uniform and military bearing”. In one of his diary notes dated october 17th, 1911, Kafka mentions this image that likes him very much: “When I think of his anecdote: In the Court of Erfurt at the royal table Napoleon refers a story: When I was a simple lieutenant at the fifth regiment…
(the royal highnesses turbed look each other; noticing this Napoleon corrects himself), When I had the honor of being a simple lieutenant… ” my neck arteries swell with a pride that, lightly in agreement with the protagonist, artificially emotions me”.Kafka continues the first scene bringing in the murder’s after-noon when, about six thirty, Raskolnikov awakes without having done any preparations for the crime. His has to stay in the old woman’s house at even, time at which she’ll be alone.
Raskolni-kov thinks he is living a nightmare and cannot imagine himself yet taking an ax, and cracking the skull of the old woman. In his turn, Gregory reflects on what is happening to him and wonders whether everything is just a nightmare, whether he must forget all his fantasies and hurry up and take the train that leaves at seven. No matter the clock hands continue running, Raskolnikov does not get to decide to leave his bed. Both Gregory and Raskolnikov are short of time and their final reaction is the same: “Gregor’s eyes turned next to the window..
. (then) “He looked at the larm clock ticking on the chest”. -(Raskolnikov) “Suddenly he heard a clock strike. He started, roused himself, raised his head, looked out of the window, and seeing how late it was, suddenly jumped up..
. “Gregory: “Heavenly Father! He thought. It was half-past six o’clock and the hands were quietly moving on…
” -(Raskolnikov) “and meanwhile perhaps it had struck six. “(… ) “It struck six long ago” “Long ago! My Good! “. “His (Gregory’s) samples weren’t even packed up” and for Raskol-nikov: “It seemed to him strange and monstrous that he could (.
.. ) had done nothing, had preparing nothing yet…
Finally: “Seven o’clock already”, he said to himself when the alarm clock chimed again, “seven o’clock already and still such a thick fog. ” (Raskolnikov): “Suddenly a clock somewhere struck once. ‘What! can it be half-past seven? Impossible, it must be fast! ” Kafka recreates a third awakening, the one that starts Crime and Punishment second part where Raskolnikov is now a murderer. He, as soon as commits the crime, comes back to his room where pass a night between delirium and nightmare. Next morning violent knocking at his door wake him up.
Not knowing which way to turn, he is seized with error for he thinks somebody has came for him because of his crime. It is the porter and the maid who have came for bringing him a notice from the police (office).The maid (Nastasya) ask Raskolnikov about his health and the reasons for passing the bolt inside as if now he were afraid of being robbed: “Then who can have latched the door? ” retorted Nastasya. “He’s taking to bolting himself in! As if he where worth stealing! Open, you stupid, wake up! ” In The Metamorphosis it is the family that appears in the scene. They, as soon as notice Gregory still remains in his room, knock the door and ay the time to him.
Then, they ask him if he is ill that he does not open the door. By any means, however, Gregory does not think to open and he congratulates himself for being in the habit, acquired in his business trips, of locking in his room even at home. The type and sequence of the scenes choised by Kafka for assam-bling the text of the first part are coherent with the base story and undoubtly Gregory, like Raskolnikov, is guilty. Guilty of what? Whast was his crime? The answer to these questions is in the second paragraph and in front of Gregory’s bed. He (Gregory) as soon as notice his ransformation, look as Samson could look at Delilam before losing his eyesight: “What has happened to me? he thought. It was no dream.
His room, a regular human bedroom, only rather too small, lay quiet between the four familiar walls. Above the table on which a collection of cloth samples was unpacked and spread out -Samsa was a commercial traveler- hung the picture which he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and put into a pretty gilt frame. It showed a lady, with a fur cap on and a fur stole, sitting upright and holding out to the spectator a huge fur muff into which the whole of her forearm had vanished! Gregory is not a murderer in the way of Raskolnikov but an ultra-sentimental who is mad about a very well known woman, Venus in Furs, whose original portrait was in St. Petersburg, home of Raskolnikov, the St. Petersburg’s friend.
Gregor Samsa shares his desire object with his double, Sacher-Masoch, with whom he him-self identifies till the point of assuming, secretly and trough a permutation, Sacher-Masoch’s identity: Gregor Samsa is an anagra-me of this name. Moreover, Severino Kusinski, the protagonist of Venus in Furs, as slave and by command of his owner, the Furs’ Lady, takes the name “Gregory” nstead of his name. With this, the identification proves to be multiple. As Brod said, without imagine until what point, those impure women affairs beared upon Kafka’s very much.Since The Metamorphosis, Kafka uses a technique consisting of hanging on the walls portraits of important characters of the work that act behind the scenes, changing the course of the original narrative which serves as a textual support.
The second fictional ground, Venus in Furs, give us the identities of the protagonists through two things, a portrait and a name. Much was argued over Kafka’s work and over the presence or bsence of keys in it. Those who thought of an affirmative answer to this matter where in a losing position for these keys were never found. Then the work of Kafka gave rise to endless interpretations. Gregor Samsa -Sacher-Masoch- is Franz Kafka. Consequently, the portrait lady -Wanda Dunaiev- is Felice Bauer, his brilliant girlfriend who inspires the story to him.
In a letter of november 1st, 1912, to Felice, Kafka points out the close relation that exists between Felice and his work, and refers to The Metamorpho-sis’ genesis when he confess to her that since the afternoon when he wrote to her for the first time, “I ave had a feeling as if in my chest there were a gap through which a sucking and uncon-trolled power pull in and out muy wombs till one night in bed when, remembering a biblical story, both the need of that feeling and the veracity of the story at once were evident to me”.Kafka does not say to Felice anything about what story is he talking but, undoubtly, it is the story that acts as epigrame in Sacher-Masoch’s novel: “The Lord Almighty punished him, into a woman’s hand he put him” (judith 16, chapter VII). Kafka must have to see with horrible precision that “since Holofernes and Agamenon until now, voluptuosity, the blind assion, has always drove man to the breast woman offers to him…
Misery, slavery, death”. In Severino-Gregory’s diary we read: “I had breakfast under the green vault and began to read the book of Judith, envying the rage of Holofernes, The Gentile, the real woman that beheaded him and even his beautiful death. ” “The Lord Almighty punished him, into a woman’s hand he put him. ” This phrase annoys me. How little courteous the Jewish! Their God could choice a better expression for the gentle sex. “The Lord Almighty punished him, into a woman’s hand he put him, “Meanwhile I repeated to me.
What could I do to be punished? ” Venus in Furs is inspired in the baroness Fanny von Pistor, a woman of “strange, diabolical beauty, o redish hair which splendor defied any description, with something magic and fascinating like a snake’s gaze” whom Leopold von Sacher-Masoch idealizes in Wanda Dunaiev, the protagonist of the novel. Sacher-Masoch, who repeatedly dreamt of a beautiful sultana enslaving him in a tur-kish palace, molds in this work his femenin ideal: an opulent woman, in furs, and with a whip at a hand that inflicts any sort of punishments and humilliations everything in ccordance with a contract previously signed between Severino Kusinski and Wanda Dunaiev, in which clauses he accepts to be her slave and to allow her to do with him anything she wants. A serious one question to Sacher-Masoch as shows the fact of making real his fantasy of formalizing a contract (with Aurore Rumelin who, adopting the name of Wanda, the protagonist of the novel, enchanted, accepted to enslave the writer with whom she got married later. Thus, Sacher-Masoch became converted in the fictional character he himself had imagined and reated. For Kafka, things develop in a different way.He starts from a fantasy – Venus in Furs- inspired by a real relationship -with Felice Bauer- to which he gets satisfaction through a fiction in The Metamorphosis.
For Him, literature functions like a mechanism that gives him, and also satisfies, his fantasies. In the case of The Metamorphosis, literature allows him to live a marriage in a literary virtuality that acts as a substitution of the real, so exorcised, marriage. For that reason, the ideal that inspires the work and the ideal that embodies it are, in Venus in Furs, two women acting as poles between which literature fiction- circula-tes, and, in The Metamorphosis, a same and only woman -Felice Bauer- circulating between the two poles of fiction. On the other hand, this woman that serves as a “driver” for Kafka’s fantasy does not need to be a beautiful baroness since actually Kafka, while seeing Felice for the first time mistook her for a maid at whom, from the beginning and owing to the infernal bright of her gold teeth, he was unable to look face to face. Gregory, while surrendering himself to the furs lady who have enslave him, has turn into a insect and does not know yet whether that condition is a permanent or a temporary one.
His bedroom door separates both the world of fantasy and the world of rea-lity, where his family and job are and demand him. Gregory does not feel like facing reality til the moment the chief clerk comes and hints that Gregory wants to steal from the store. The, Gre-gory gets to leave his bed and, walking at the door, opens it with difficulty. The chief clerk yells and backs away when Gre-gory goes out off the room, the mother faints and the father burst out crying. Gregory tries to calm the clerk who thinks to lay him off, but the man goes hastily.
This upsets Gregory’s father who drivesGregory back into his room stamping his feet loudly while flourishing a walking stick in his right hand and a large newspaper in the left. In this dramatic scene, one of the best achieved of the story, and inspired in the meeting of Raskolnikov with his mother and sister, in his little room of St. Petersburg, that ends the first part, Kafka gives us an idea of his familiar and labor rela-tionships, both extremely bad indeed for the days of narration. The father appears brute and tyrannic. The mother is shown like a weak human being with no character.
In regard to the sister, perhaps to show politeness with all is sisters (unlike with his father with whom he mutually and decisively hates, as Kafka writes to Felice a week before beginning the narrative, he says to get on well together with all of them) Kafka sends her for the doctor, putting her farther away of the scene. Forever condemning himself to animality, Gregory will not be a free man nevermore. This is a voluntary, unknown for his family, transformation. Among them and as far as the know something like this had occurred never before. Nor among their neighbors such a thing had happened. Therefore, Gregory’s metamorphosis is consi-dered as a real damnation.
Hindering them of having their usual life, Gregory tortures his family till infrahuman limits and seizes the words of the “Notes from the Underground” embittered mouse, one of his direct ancestors: “I know I torture you, I cause you suffering, I do not allow anybody at home to sleep. Well, don’t sleep, realize each time my teeth ache. For you, now, I am not a heroe as I tried to look before; I am a despicable being, an idler. Nothing cares me! I feel happy of you knowing me as I am. Does listening to my vile wails disgust you very much? Well, disgust you.
Now you will see what a warbling I have prepared for you! “At the beginning, Kafka conceived The Metamorphosis as a short story, (just the first part). Therefore it would be a little jewel of black humor with intimate erotic resonances, hardly perceived indeed, and assimilated with a simple dream by the confused reder if the initial plan of the work would have been mantained. But once Kafka ends the first part, he feels an “unlimited desire of melting himself in the story, a “wild desire” of prolonging it. And in November 23rd he writes to Felice that the “short story” “silently begins to become a longer one”. The story entitled “The Metamorphosis” is “a little bit dreadful”.
Next day, he reads the first part to his friends and they, according to Max Brod’s testimony, supose it is the reading of a whole work. (Later, when Musil, in order to publish The Metamorphosis in Die Neue Rundschau German Magazine, asks Kafka to cut out a third part of the work, Kafka answers suggesting to publish only the first part, and in this way, the story is reduced in two-third parts. Musil is disconcerted with the proposal but not as much as Kafka is). On November 24th, a Sunday, when the mentioned reading of Kafka to his friends take place, he introduces the story to Felice with the next erms: My Love, how extremely repulsive is the story I have just put to one side to try to recover myself thinking of you. I have advanced a bit and a half and, in his entirity, I am not unhappy with it. But nauseating as it is in an unlimited manner, and things like these, you see, come from the same heart you live in, and tolerate as home.
Don’t be sad for that since, who knows, perhaps as much as I write and free myself, purer and worthier of you I will become. However there are many things in me it is necessary even to take out, and nights could not be long enough for a task, in the highest degree, besides, so voluptuous. “