Monday, 6 December 2010

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Gregor Samsa awoke in his bed one morning from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect (or ‘monstrous vermin’ depending on which translation you read)

Poor Gregor! As if life isn’t bad enough being worked half to death as a lowly travelling salesman desperately trying to pay his family’s debts without waking up as a giant bug.

But God bless him, Gregor doesn’t give up. If only he could learn to control all his legs which all seem to be moving on their own accord while he is trapped on his back. If he could only manage to get onto his front he is sure he would only miss a couple of days work.

Of course a man turning into an insect is ridiculous, surreal and absurd, the whole situation is funny. Gregor is bizarrely accepting of his condition and it is his family and other people he encounters that has issues with his appearance. When it dawns on Gregor that he will never lead a normal life again, instead staying confined to his room and becoming a burden on his already stressful family, the story takes a sadder turn.

The family’s reactions to Gregors situation as first seem understandable. But as they start to blame Gregor for their financial predicament they now find themselves in and the fact that they are now unable to move to a smaller house because of the logistics of moving Gregor, their attitude towards Gregor become one of disgust and cruelty. It’s a hopeless situation and can only end one way...

Due to the simple narrative and the nature of the Metamorphosis it is not surprising that the meaning behind the story has been debated ever since its publication and I am sure that any literature student will have a field day with it.

While I read it for the pure enjoyment of it rather than looking into anything too deeply, it did leave me with one question. Why did the family seem better off upon Gregors death than they were when Gregor was alive? This of course leads me to other questions such as was Gregors martyr-like existence in supporting his entire family before his predicament actually detrimental to his family in some way? I am sure questions like this will spin around in my head for evermore.

Would I recommend this? If you’re only going to read one thing by Kafka, why not make it The metamorphosis his most famous work? It’s also worth mentioning that I downloaded this free on the kindle so if anyone has an electronic reader it’s certainly worth getting.

Posted by Jess

Final verdict 4/5


  1. I do think it's Gregor taking on that burden that makes the family unhealthy. When they are forced to look after themselves, they grow stronger, all three of them. It's a situation I've actually seen happen in real life (minus the bug part).

    Glad you enjoyed it! this is one of my favorites.

  2. It's been years since I read this one, but it's still pretty vivid. What a fascinating way to write about family dynamics.

  3. Love that painting/picture!

    The Metamorphosis didn't do it for me. While I respect and understand that as a metaphor it's fantastic (and all the social/politcal commentary going on) the story itself bored me. I wasn't moved by anything or anyone. I just don't like Kafka's style.

  4. Amanda - I'm glad you expained it like that, its makes perfect sense for me now!

    Avid Reader - There are certinaly images I won't forget after reading this.

    Bethany - maybe something was lost in translation for you? At least it wasn't a long book though ;)

  5. I was fascinated by this story. My heart when out to poor Gregor. His family viewed him as the parasite, when in fact it was them that had been trating like an insect the entire time by taking advantage of his good nature.

    Here is my review if you are interested

  6. Excellent review. I just finished this one as well, so its great to see your thoughts. I feel so bad for Gregor and where he was before his metamorphosis.

    But you can't deny that once his family has to take the burden on themselves, they become...better in a way.

  7. Wow - sounds humourous and nightmarish all at the same time! This book is one of those classics that I suspect many people keep meaning to read but somehow never quite get around to it. I might have to add this to my wishlist. Thanks for your great review!

  8. I've meant to read this for several years, but haven't yet...I'm sure I'll get around to it one day.

  9. Great review, sadly after studying this at GCSE (I think my school were mad) English and then an adaptation in drama it killed this for me and put me of Kafka for life!!

  10. Maybe I should download this to our Sony e Reader, not sure about it for myself but it might appeal to my husband.

  11. I'm just zipping around the blogosphere, reminding bloggers...If you have read any wonderful literary books
    published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
    for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
    include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.

    I'm especially interested in having some great nominees for nonfiction!

  12. I have wanted to try Kafka, and was debating between this and The Trial...your review makes me want to go with this one :)