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Classics Corner

Metamorphosis
by Franz Kafka


Top 100 Reviewer
Reviewer: darragh o'donoghue from dublin, ireland

For the reader new to Kafka as a writer, there is a lot of baggage to be thrown off: everything implied by the cliche 'Kafkaesque' we've gathered from films, other books and the like (alienation, angst, modern man and the Absurd, the terror of totalitarian bureaucracy, etc.); everything, in other words, that has made a caricature of an original vision.
      So, for the first-time reader of Kafka, there are some pleasant surprises in 'the Metamorphosis'. The novella is often very funny - Gregor's orientation to his condition (he enjoys running up the walls and hanging off the ceiling) and the reaction of his family and manager provoke some priceless farcical set-pieces. It is a Gothic story - about a salesman who turns into a monstrous vermin, and the aghast reaction of his family; there are some unexpected frissons in the story we would normally expect from the horror genre. It is a portrait of a complacent middle-class family in decline, a la Galsworthy, or a study of the artist in an impoverished family with a weak but aggressive father, like Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. There are even elments of sentimental melodrama in the way Kafka loads up the sympathy for his monster in the face of almost caricatured hostility - I found myself welling up once or twice.
      This is not to diminish Kafka's dark and frightening vision, just to suggest how much of his art depends on play, with narrative modes and genres, with narration, with reader's expectations. The horror, anxiety, unease, if you like, is actually quite marginal on the surface - the oppressive vastness of his familiar bedroom as perceived by Gregor in his new form; the endless vista of an adjacent hospital. It's under this surface that the true anxiety lies - the gaps in the narration, the unreliability of Gregor's perceptions and interpretations, the ambiguity of Kafka's language, the witholding and gradual unfolding of details. There don't seem to be any mirrors in the Samsa household, but the story is full of mirror-like tableaux - the portrait of the lady in furs; the photo of Gregor as a young soldier; the image of domestic life viewed every evening by Gregor in darkness.
      If only all classics were treated with the respect of this edition. the translation is mostly smooth and fresh, with occasionally clumsy constructions and jarring Americanisms (are there really trolleys and foyers in Kafka's world?). The critical apparatus provides endless intellectual nourishment - manuscript revisions revealing the precision of Kafka's writing; an account of the story's genesis, creation and background through letters, diaries and related Kafka works; and seven critical essays from perspectives as varied as feminism, psychoanalysis, new-historicism and linguistics, some infected by the usual blights of literary criticism (e.g. undigested globs of French theory making argument and prose impenetrable; distortion of text to produce biased interpretaions), but which insightfully open up the astonishing density and ambiguity of a 40-page fable, offering ingenious, mutually excluxive, even contradictory readings that are all very plausible, and yet ultimately miss Kafka's elusive enigma.


From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 09:11 AM I read this new translation yesterday, and although it has be a couple of years since I read the other one, I'd say this one is much nicer. Had great flow, never an awkward moment (in the writing). It has always befuddled me that Kafka dreamt up such a thing, but have I ever noticed before that the reason I know Gregor turned into a cockroach is from reviews rather than the story? He doesn't exactly say it in the story. Anyway, sorry to step on Ann's toes here, but it is the 1st of May. Tonya
Topic: The Metamorphosis (2 of 52), Read 129 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 09:37 AM Thanks, Tonya. I'm behind, as usual. Let the discussion begin! Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (3 of 52), Read 128 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 11:40 AM I read my own copy, which is in a fat Collected Short Works of Kafka, and gives no credit for the translation. I suppose different works have different translators, but you'd think they'd list them somewhere. Perhaps I should look again. Anyway, I noticed the same thing you did, Tonya. Where had I gotten the idea he was a cockroach? BTW, ever since I first read this over 30 years ago, when I find some kind of HUGE bug crawling around the house, I yell, "Eeeeeek, Gregor Samsa!" There is something so funny (both haha and peculiar) about the whole situation. The way the family (and Gregor) just kind of accept what's happened, and try to deal with it in their clumsy ways, instead of running for the insect spray. R R
Topic: The Metamorphosis (4 of 52), Read 125 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 01:24 PM I wonder on my read-thru of this new translation what's really metamorphosed? I always assumed it was Gregor's transformation the title referred to but now I'm not so sure. This may be a plot-spoiler, if there can be such a thing with Kafka (matter of fact, I'm surprised there are no stories by Kafka titled 'Plot Spoiler') but, in the areas of personality and actions Gregor seems to me least changed of all the major characters in the course of the tale. The sister 'blossoms', her young body becomes well-nigh sensual, the father seems to go backwards in time and gain a virility of spirit he's never had, the mom loses her maternal compassion etc., Just a thought. By the way Ruth, I empathize with you... I'm often frightened in my home by literary characters... Addie from 'As I Lay Dying' gets me every time...
Topic: The Metamorphosis (5 of 52), Read 120 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael jodyrichael@cs.com Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 03:30 PM I agree with George. When I was first reading this story I assumed the Metamorphosis was George's transformation into an insect but I definitely think it refers the the complete change the family undergoes. The entire dynamic of the family changes. To me the most humorous aspect of the story was how calmly everyone accepts the fact that George is now an insect. I'm sure there is alot of meaning to this story but what is it? I did thoroughly enjoy it even if I don't understand it. Jody
Topic: The Metamorphosis (6 of 52), Read 120 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 04:05 PM I read once that the story is about the estrangement of a writer from society and it was pointed out that Gregor Samsa has assonance with Franz Kafka. But re-reading the story I see many levels of isolation. You make a good point, Geroge. Internally, Gregor is the same person. He has always felt estranged from his family who has imposed a hateful job on him. I'm sure that he would rather be reading and writing. He feels apart from his fellow workers and his boss who, he feels, don't give him his due. I thought that the picture on his wall of a woman from a magazine was sad. There is no woman in his life whose picture he can have. His family loves the daughter for her sensuality as it promises them future generations while he is a solitary dead end. Gregor Samsa, then, embodies every form of rejection and isolation which a human can experience. So when Gregor awakens to find himself to be a repulsive creature, nothing has changed for him. It is the family who must now adapt and they do. And so, we see that they can get along quite well without having forced Gregor to work in a job which he hated. So why could they not have let him be without making him feel that the only place where he could find solace was under the couch? But that is not to say that Gregor had not been through some changes. He did try to conform. When he looked liked his family, Gregor feels that they hated him for the way he was and that they forced him to conform by taking a conventional job. As he transformed himself to be a good salesman, when he took the internal form of a salesman, his outside changed. (Perhaps an outward manifestation of his revulsion at being untrue to himself.) The irony for poor Gregor is that his parents reject him for his repulsive appearance even though he was exactly the kind of person they wanted him to be: the good salesman and hard worker who worried about how he was going to get to work on time and who worried about how they were going to manage. This unwillingness to accept people for their inner humanity is, of course, the very root of prejudice whose damage cannot but extend beyond the personal sphere. Violent anti-Semitism had been established in Europe from the Middle Ages. Its bloody tides rose and fell so that one never knew if one would go to sleep at night as a human and awaken the next morning seen as a vermin fit only for extermination. I think that central to the story is the interplay among how Gregor perceives himself, how others percieve him and how Gregor thinks others see him. The story lets us see these things operating simultaneously like looking at a cubist painting and seeing several views of his profile at once. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: The Metamorphosis (7 of 52), Read 119 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 04:12 PM Good note, Dean. R
Topic: The Metamorphosis (8 of 52), Read 119 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 04:30 PM Thanks, Ruth. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: The Metamorphosis (9 of 52), Read 114 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Poppema Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 07:27 PM Maybe the biggest transformation in the text was not Samsa, but his family's. As was touched on already, his family is "forced" to change their ways of life. Maybe Samsa never REALLY transformed into an insect? He woke up one day and found himself obsolete. He IMAGINED his hands and feet (once familiar tools used to bring money to his family) becoming appendages. As his family grew away from him, he became a "fly on the wall" (listening at doorways, hanging upside down, etc.) His FAMILY was transforming. 1) His sister was getting older 2) Subconsciously his father might have been ready to find a job. His family no longer needed/wanted his support...he was now in the way and they wanted to "squash him like a bug". Samsa's ultimate sacrifice was his way of allowing his family to move on(figuratively and physically)....They could move to another place (new beginnings) once he was ultimately eliminated. ANOTHER THOUGHT: His mother seemed to be the one who was the most affected by his "transformation"...maybe she saw herself also becoming obsolete in the family dynamic? The children no longer needed a care-giver and the husband no longer needed her around all day since he now had a job. Just a few thoughts...I am not very good at this!! Janet What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)
Topic: The Metamorphosis (10 of 52), Read 112 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, May 01, 2003 08:52 PM Ruth: I also remember reading critical essays that maintained Kafka was very indeterminate in his description of the bug, leading some expert readers to posit that it was one variety or another of hard-shelled beetle, and at least one to even make a case for a centipede.(?) My own uncredited, mysterious translation, after referring in the first paragraph to "some monstrous kind of vermin," later goes on to actually use the word "cockroach." Go figure. The editor of my anthology, whose essays I find pompous and particularly unhelpful, does make one good point about "Metamorphosis" that I hadn't considered, though. He says that only Gregor's total denial of the situation's true horror makes a story-length piece possible at all; if he had faced the facts at the beginning, everything would have hit the fan in no time. I can't help thinking that Kafka might be making the subliminal point that every "normal" person is a Gregor at heart. It's impossible to fully acknowledge the human condition...how nasty, brutish, short, etc....and still go through the motions of daily life. As a result, this state of abject denial becomes synonymous with mental health. Glad I could spread some sunshine here.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (11 of 52), Read 112 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 03:57 AM I read this some 30 or 40 years ago. At that time, I felt that this little story had; 1) Absolutely no meaning and purpose and that Kafka had gone off his rocker, or 2) Kafka had deep meanings and nuances and that I wasn't smart enough to figure them out. I don't know if I have the energy to hunt this story down to see if I have gotten smarter in my waning years. I recall it being a short story rather than a novel (a novella?) so maybe I can work it into my heavy social schedule. EDD
Topic: The Metamorphosis (12 of 52), Read 114 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 06:55 AM "The only thought in his head was that Gregor should get back into his room as quickly as possible. He would never have allowed Gregor to make the complicated preparations needed for standing upright again and perhaps slipping through the door that way. On the contrary, the father was now making more noise than ever in an effort to drive Gregor forward, as if there were no obstacle in the way at all; to Gregor, though, the noise at his rear no longer sounded like the voice of one single father; this was really no joke, and Gregor thrust himself—come what might— into the doorway. One side of his body rose up, he was tilted at an angle in the doorway, his flank was scraped raw; horrid blotches stained the white door, soon he was stuck fast and, left to himself, could not have moved at all; his little legs on one side fluttered trembling in the air, those on the other were crushed painfully to the floor—when from behind his father gave him a strong push which was literally a deliverance and he flew far into the room, bleeding violently. The door was slammed behind him with the stick, and then at last there was silence." That's the end of Part 1 (Muir's version)... does this strike anybody else as a kind of perverse reverse-birth? It reminds me of that famous parental threat "I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it." I think, judging from another Kafka masterwork called 'The Judgement", that a key narrative line in both stories could be the vampiristic nature of father/son relationships... if one is strong the other is weak... never both strong or weak at once (to simplify down)...maybe there are more examples, if this was even an example. I'm on the hunt...
Topic: The Metamorphosis (13 of 52), Read 100 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Jody Richael jodyrichael@cs.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 12:36 PM Someone mentioned that Samsa may be a cryptogram for Kafka. In the notes in my book it said that when Kafka heard of this he said, "It is not a cryptogram. Samsa is not merely Kafka and nothing else. The Metamorphosis is not a confession, although it is --in a certain sense-- an indiscretion." I'm not sure what he means by that but maybe someone else does. I have been skimming the story again and I have been struck by all the similarities between the insect's life and Samsa's life as a commercial traveler. Samsa appears to have been reaching a point of complete despair at the drudgery of his life and his family's total dependence on him to repay their debts and support them. When Samsa first realizes that he is an insect he describes the complete exhaustion of trying to get out of bed and this is juxtaposed with his musing on the exhaustion of his job. His inability to control his legs and body initially could also be a reference to his inability to control his own life in his previous world. He says that it would be so simple to get out of bed with some help but no one from the family comes to rescue him from bed or his life-draining job. When he finally does figure out how to walk he experiences joy and hope for the first time and is "inclined to believe that a final relief from all his sufferings was at hand." His dreams and hopes are once again destroyed by his mother crying for help and his father forcefully driving him back into his own room. One other comment that struck me was the first time George (as the insect of course) tried to crawl under the couch and he regrets that his body is too large to fit entirely under the couch. I thought it was interesting that he didn't regret that the couch was too small to cover his body. His entire outlook on life was probably that he was to blame for everything. Lastly - Does anyone know if Kafka is trying to make some statements about the life of the working people in his day? There seem to be a lot of comments about insurance adjusters claiming you aren't really sick, companies distrusting workers etc. Jody
Topic: The Metamorphosis (14 of 52), Read 100 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 03:37 PM Perhaps this says more about me than the story, but I saw absolutely NO humor whatsoever in this horrifying story. For me it is a tale about complete isolation and rejection. My translation refers to Gregor as a "dung beetle" towards the end. Is that the same thing as a cockroach? He's obviously a very large bug since he can barely fit under the couch and he can cover a picture with his body. I think Dale may be right that Kafka is saying something about the human condition. I also think this could only be written by someone who saw himself as very estranged from other human beings and who at least had occasional thoughts that his loved ones would be a lot better off if he were dead. The father may get more active as the story goes on, but he is never sympathetic. The sister starts out very kind, but becomes pretty hardened as the story goes on. But then, who could blame her? The mother has my sympathy throughout. Well, this is definitely a story I never would have read on my own and once again I have to thank the folks here on Classics Corner for expanding my horizons. Why do you all think this story has become such a classic, in spite of its undeniable strangeness? What is it in the story that that continues to speak to readers (or at least teachers of literature:)?
Topic: The Metamorphosis (15 of 52), Read 96 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Poppema Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 04:44 PM "Why do you all think this story has become such a classic, in spite of its undeniable strangeness? What is it in the story that that continues to speak to readers (or at least teachers of literature:)?" Maybe because of its "timeless" quality. People in all times and places have at one time or another felt under-appreciated and/or overworked. Also, over-bearing fathers, lovely sisters and anxious mothers are all around us, even today. janet What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)
Topic: The Metamorphosis (16 of 52), Read 96 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 05:10 PM I think, Ann, that it's become a classic at least in part BECAUSE of its undeniable strangeness. So strange, and yet so real. In fact, surreal, in the true sense of the word--transcending and going beyond reality. Like a dream, in which we find ourselves in horrible circumstances and yet never question them, just try to deal with them as best we can. R
Topic: The Metamorphosis (17 of 52), Read 97 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 05:22 PM I think that the story has a certain appeal to adolescents who are dealing with the metamorphosis of puberty and their changing social responsibilities as a result. (Imagine waking up one morning to find that your legs have become hairy. How do you deal with that?) Today Gregor might find a place in that contemporary group of misfits who become isolated from the world at puberty, The X-Men. All roads lead to roam. Dean
Topic: The Metamorphosis (18 of 52), Read 99 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 06:00 PM Following on Ruth: It has become a classic because it echoes and makes manifest an universal psychological state that most people encounter now and then (if only momentarily): the sense of oneself being a freak in the world, of the real world being entirely alien to the self.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (19 of 52), Read 94 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 10:42 PM
Topic: The Metamorphosis (20 of 52), Read 96 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 10:55 PM Now THIS is a cool bug. Lynn
Topic: The Metamorphosis (21 of 52), Read 93 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 11:27 PM Why the longevity of "The Metamorphosis"? I think it's because Kafka recreates two almost universal human experiences with uncanny authenticity: (1) the bizarre, dead-end logic of your worst nightmare, and (2) the sense of being a hopeless monster in an untenable world that so many of us undergo (as Dean points out) in adolescence and, I would add, to various degrees throughout life when our emotional boat is swamped by very hard times. (Insert shudder.) Jody makes an excellent point too, I think: George tried to crawl under the couch and he regrets that his body is too large to fit entirely. I thought it was interesting that he didn't regret that the couch was too small to cover his body. His entire outlook on life was probably that he was to blame for everything. This frame of mind, in my experience, is also one of the most insidious aspects of severe clinical depression. So, all in all, a paradox of a story: at once over-the-top strange and way too real to ignore. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (22 of 52), Read 94 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, May 02, 2003 11:58 PM One more thing...I had always assumed that Gregor Samsa's family situation was largely autobiographical in Kafka's case, but the editor of my volume (one Charles Neider) claims that the reverse is true. Neider writes: It is difficult to understand the personal significance of "The Metamorphosis" without comprehending Kafka's relation with his father. All his life Kafka was oppressed by the belief that he was insufficient compared with his father. He was the eldest of six children. His two brothers died in their infancy, leaving the young Kafka the sole male child among three unfriendly females. At an early age he met death not as something vague in the upstairs world of adults, but as an awful gap evidencing the quicksandish nature of life. The trauma may have been in large part responsible for his early pessimism and later psychic onanism. He already suffered from being the eldest child, with all the difficulties of adjustment that this fact classically implies. Besides, he was a male in a highly patriarchal society, the son of a striving burgher casting hungry eyes about for a capable heir. He came up early against his father's disappointment. To be deprived of two sons and then given a weakling: this must have been a blow for the father. Franz, flung down and trampled upon by massive unknown forces, began to revolve like a satellite around his sun-god father, transfixed by the glow that both warmed and consumed him. Seeking an attacker, he found one ready-made... Gregor Samsa is an eminently good son; he is, in fact, fanatically good. And he is the economic mainstay of a parasitic family. This is a wish projection of a Kafka depressed by his economic dependence on the father. Its strength resides in its fertile invention and its power of empathy. It is not an "amazing story"; it differs from most horror tales because of its core of immediate and personal truth, consisting of the universality of disaster and the fear of the unknown. One feels that the actual transformation is merely symbolic of more real and deadly ones which are ever possible and which haunt even the healthiest and best adjusted of beings. There is implicit everywhere the neurotic's horror of losing control, and there are hints of fear of the lower depths of sleep, night, and dream, and also of existence in death without the release of death--a mythical echo of Tantalus. The illusion of transformation is achieved not only by a sort of bug documentation but also by the behavior of the parents and sister, who never forget that the bug is their Gregor. There are the usual perspicacious psychosomatic implications in Kafka, e.g., the general physical degeneration of the family under the impact of disaster, and their regeneration after Gregor's death. A slip on Kafka's part, surprising because of his meticulous care to preserve unity of point of view, is the break near the end of the tale. Kafka might have concluded with Gregor's expiration; he seems, however, to have been unwilling to forgo the opportunity of a few more digs at the family's expense. He presents them as glorifying in their sudden freedom. *** That said, Neider points out that one of Kafka's greatest bursts of productivity (which gave us AMERIKA, "Metamorphosis," and "The Verdict" in a period of less than a year) was set in motion by falling in love with a young woman he met at Max Brod's house in Prague. Is it just me, or does anybody else here have trouble imagining the experience of dating Franz Kafka? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (23 of 52), Read 97 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, May 03, 2003 12:56 AM Dale-- Hilarious. Dating Kafka is as easy to visualize as tickling Nietzsche. Ann-- I think the tale is classic (though not Kafka's best) for gobs of reasons: 1.) the writing itself, easy to miss in translation. 2.) Kafka's insight into how we miss the extraordinary all around us everyday... when we drive fast heads down to return rented videos never glancing up to see the moon a shade of orange it hasn't been for 200 years and won't be for 200 more. 3.) His insight into the fragility of good intentions (Gregor's attempted sponsoring of his sister's music springs to mind) and the ability (a la Frankenstein) of individuals who seem horrible to possess aesthetic appreciation and good will. 4.) His insight into the unbelievable damage people can do to each other by doing what seem to be the right things but only for themselves. 5.) The mystery of it all. 6.) the universality of other themes (stated better than I can do by the preceding posts). 7.) His ruthless slaughter of lazy romanticism. 8.) All the other reasons I can't think of. When a reader suffers along with Samsa and then gets punched in the gut by a line like " Was he an animal, since music so moved him?" the story, I think, has the shape, weight and impact of a classic.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (24 of 52), Read 90 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, May 03, 2003 10:06 AM Thank you everyone for those very insightful answers to my question concerning the enduring appeal of this story. Dale, I was very interested in the information you posted about Kafka's father. From what I have read, Kafka senior was a terrible bully and Kafka blamed his father for the fact that he was never able break away from his family, get married, and be independent. His relationship with his mother was better, but not strong. Neither parent had any sympathy with his ambition to write. I have the Norton Critical edition and it includes some of the letters Kafka wrote around the time he was composing this story. One of the strongest themes is Kafka's very deep frustration at not being able to devote more time to his writing. He had a full-time job at the Workers' Accident Insurance Institute, plus during this period his father was nagging him to get more involved in supervising a family owned factory. This left little time for Kafka to rest or work on his writing, and he was deeply resentful. I think this resentment of his family obligations shows up in The Metamorphosis. In Gregor Samsa he paints a picture of a perfect son who has sacrificed all of his personal wants to the family good. He alone has a job (one which he detests), and it provides enough income that his father can even squirrel away part of it without telling Gregor. And yet, when disaster strikes, it doesn't matter how perfect Gregor was in the past. They all end up rejecting Gregor and, paradoxically, become stronger as he becomes weaker. I think family therapists would have a field day with this little tale! Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (25 of 52), Read 87 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, May 03, 2003 01:16 PM Ann-- That's put perfectly. Kafka's resentment of the loss of his writing time definitely powers its way into the story, as do his feelings of the family's gathering strength built on the sacrifice of one of their own. That's what I meant by the vampiric nature of their relationships. Despite the bleakness, though, I'm not sure I see this story as all that strange. All Kafka's done really is up the ante on narrative themes that run back to the transformations in The Odyssey and Ovid's Metamorphoses, through Don Quixote's mind over matter transformation via sheer imaginative force through countless other classic characters who find themselves changed into things they never thought they could be. After Gregor is 'birthed' into his new solitude and helplessness by his father in the door escapade and, strangely, develops a dislike for milk (the reversals continue), he is in descending order pampered, tolerated, hated. This is a double fall, a fall in emotions and out of life itself. And his fall (out of existence anyway) is initiated by an apple flung by his father. That sounds kind of familiar to me. The apple rots and infects him and he dies from the combination of starvation and an assault by food. Truly a no-win combination. I can't help seeing a savage parody in this chain of events. And it's a cyclical fall, because the sister will very shortly after the story's end be subjugated to the mutual conclusion of Mr.+ Mrs. Samsa that she get a good husband who will be a "confirmation of their new dreams and excellent intentions".
Topic: The Metamorphosis (26 of 52), Read 84 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, May 03, 2003 03:53 PM George: I think we're onto a killer title, here, for a story collection on the theme of personal interactions with literary greats... DATING KAFKA, TICKLING NIETZSCHE. A great collaboration opportunity for CCers, don't you think? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (27 of 52), Read 69 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, May 03, 2003 11:35 PM Janet and Jody mention Samsa's extreme case of overwork/underappreciation syndrome, and his super-dark depiction of the workplace...which, considering some of the super-dark places I've worked, really struck a chord with me.{G} Here's what the editor of my volume has to say about that aspect of the story: Gregor's early dilemma is whether or not to recognize the catastrophe. Unable to comprehend it, he withdraws into the known area of his past, complaining, instead of at the transformation, against the details of his former existence. Thus Kafka stresses the mind's inability to adjust before an enormity, while ironically commenting on the importance of the "job" in his world (Gregor is unendingly concerned with his job). Kafka's fixation on the job theme arises from his own necessity to work, at cost to his creative activity. The pervading physical influence of the employer, dramatized in the novella, is a European characteristic more than an American one. It is a feature of a paternalistic, often despotic society, of closed economic frontiers and of slight fluidity between social classes. Gregor's complete transformation, both mental and physical, saves him from realizing the true nature of his tragedy. It is as though the coma of some great illness has overcome him... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (28 of 52), Read 66 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 11:12 AM George, I enjoyed your comments about the significance of food in this story, especially the observation that Gregor was killed both by starvation and an assault with food. Of course, that assault was committed by his father - which has all kinds of psychological implications. Like the insect that he had become, Gregor stopped liking human food, such as milk, and found that garbage held the most appeal. If he had lived, eventually he might have lost all aspects of being human, including his consciousness. If he had not retained that human consciousness, this story wouldn't have been so tragic. Dale, I think all of us can relate to those frustrations caused by working at a bad job. Interestingly, I read that Kafka was really quite a good employee. Earlier, you quoted from an introduction that described Gregor's "existence in death without the release of death." That really describes the horror in a nutshell for me. (So maybe the ending was really happy after all :) ) Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (29 of 52), Read 70 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 07:04 PM Dale-- Great Idea! Dating Kafka, Tickling Nietzsche Part One- A Date with K. "It was a dark and... well it was just very dark. The inside of the movie house was also black, but not the usual stationary and shaped blackness of an interior but more like the trembling belly of a storm cloud. Perhaps I was just projecting my nervous anticipation on my surroundings, since this blind date had been two years in the making. It's not easy to get a shy, young, and penniless writer to ask you out. Yet there he was, a breath away, and I could sense him trying to find some way to get his arm unobtrusively over my shoulder. My spine tingled, seeming to loom over its own body like a single huge antenna. I felt him move with spasmodic courage and then I felt what seemed to be a wrist land on my shoulder, then land again, and again and again, as if somehow he had four right arms... Part Two- The Ubertickle
Topic: The Metamorphosis (30 of 52), Read 67 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 08:53 PM LOL
Topic: The Metamorphosis (31 of 52), Read 63 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 09:06 PM Excellent, George! Gosh, those four wrists will give you the willies, every time... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (32 of 52), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 09:25 PM How odd that the story is so strange--and I think pretty much everyone agrees that it is--yet such a reflection of our human situation. Anyone notice that the daughter becomes beautiful and radiant, and she was the only one who showed any compassion to the bug?
Topic: The Metamorphosis (33 of 52), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 09:21 PM I have to agree with you. Where was the humor in this story? My copy has an introduction which even says the very first sentence is humorous. I just don't see it. The story is interesting, full of hidden meaning, a reflection on aspects of humanity, but never humorous.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (34 of 52), Read 63 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Sunday, May 04, 2003 09:40 PM The first time I read it, I didn't think it was funny, either. But on every subsequent reading it's gotten funnier and funnier. The absurdity of that opening scene. The image of Gregor scuttling over the ceiling. The ridiculousness of the family's acceptance of his metamorphisis and only worrying how it will affect them... Oh, and welcome to CR, Amy. Ruth
Topic: The Metamorphosis (35 of 52), Read 61 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 08:37 AM Hi Amy, Welcome to Classics Corner! Outside of Gregor, the sister was the only character who attracted my sympathy - and that, even after she turned on him in the end. It wouldn't matter how many times I read this story (and once is really enough for me)- I would never find it humorous. But then, so-called "black comedy" never appeals to me. It always seems sad. Guess I take things too literally and empathize too much. Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (36 of 52), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Poppema Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 01:24 PM Ann: Thank you for jogging my memory on one aspect of this book that had been "bugging" me (please pardon the pun). Ann wrote: "If he had lived, eventually he might have lost all aspects of being human, including his consciousness. If he had not retained that human consciousness, this story wouldn't have been so tragic." I am a huge Star Trek fan, and on one of "The Next Generation" episodes, Jorde LaForge had an encounter with some type of organism that "transformed" him into an invisible "insect-like or animalistic" creature who relied solely on instinct and survival. Only his memories of a loving family/crew saved him at the last moment. He did not "morph" completely and lose all of his humanity. Too bad Gregor didn't live on The Enterprise. He ended up "morphing" completely, as he did not have a loving family to bring back cherished memories.... As for the Kafka date....bravo!!! I would have added a bit about his attempts at whispering in my ear...only to have those attempts at endearments being over-shadowed by a strange, hissing and clicking noise.... Janet What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)
Topic: The Metamorphosis (37 of 52), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 06:04 PM I have a little litmus-test paragraph of Kafka's called 'A Little Fable"... I find those who think it is funny generally think Kafka is funny and those who don't don't. "Alas," said the mouse, "the world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid. I kept running and running, and I was glad when at last I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into." "You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (38 of 52), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 07:08 PM Well, it made me laugh out loud, George. Ruth
Topic: The Metamorphosis (39 of 52), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 08:37 PM Janet, That sounds like an interesting Star Trek variation on Kafka's story. Somehow I can't imagine any of Kafka's stories ending happily, however. George, Well, your test could be correct. I didn't crack a smile, although I believe I do have a sense of humor. Really neurotic humor, like Bridget Jones' Diary, for example, cracks me up. Hmm - I wonder why? :) Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (40 of 52), Read 45 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mark Thorn takemetokazakstan@hotmail.com Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 10:35 PM Did anyone else find it striking that the fruit that got lodged in Gregor's back, as thrown by the father, was an apple? I immediately saw that as a potential Book of Genesis type connection (The Apple, as thrown by The Father, which was the beginning of a veritable fall from grace with the family). I gave it the whole story a second skimming to look for other would-be Genesis parallels but didn't really find any. I was hoping to perhaps connect Gregor's death to his sister (was she not leaving the right kind of food? Why wasn't he eating?) in an effort to make some sort of Cain-Abel connection, but I think that's just idle barking up sadly incorrect trees. Anyhow, maybe that's something worth thinking about, although in retrospect it feels like a bit of a stretch.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (41 of 52), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Monday, May 05, 2003 11:17 PM Welcome to CR, Mark. Yes, I noticed that, but was unable to make any more of it than you did. R
Topic: The Metamorphosis (42 of 52), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 08:43 AM Welcome, Mark. Why don't you introduce yourself up in the Welcome to Webboard conference. I think Kafka used an apple because most other food wouldn't have caused serious injury (even thinking of other foods seem absurd--banana? bread? pomegranate?) Well, the whole story is absurd, so I guess being injured by an absurd food wouldn't matter much. But there might be something in the idea that apple seems to be a kind of primary, basic food. Sherry
Topic: The Metamorphosis (43 of 52), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Poppema Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 10:26 AM Hello, Mark! Welcome to CR!! I liked your insight! Janet What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)
Topic: The Metamorphosis (44 of 52), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 11:18 AM True, Sherry, among food items an apple makes the most effective missile, but why choose a food item at all? Why not a shoe, a paperweight, an inkwell? I still think there's something to that apple. R
Topic: The Metamorphosis (45 of 52), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Tressa Cook tressacook@charter.net Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:28 PM Hi everyone, It has been a year since I've read Metamorphosis, but Kafka's one of my favorites (I loved George's "Fable"). In any case, I also felt the apple was connected to the myth of the Fall although I thought it indicated another transformation into a different kind of being. Gregor's permanent wound seems to me to be a disconnection from the body, just as Adam and Eve's affair with the apple was a connection to the body (dying ye shall die, etc.). I mean, I guess, that his individual body will never again be "whole" so he can turn instead to his own spirit. Gregor's metamorphosis itself seems to be a disconnection from the self so both the change and the apple-wound seem to represent the ability of the individual to transcend the individual self (while Eden created the "individual self") and to go beyond the garden curse. (Now, I wonder if Gregor could have/ would have been able to do this in his human form...). Tressa (who is perhaps reaching a bit)
Topic: The Metamorphosis (46 of 52), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:33 PM If nothing else, apples rot and get smelly, which adds to this whole odd scenario, but objects such as paperweights wouldn't have nearly the same effect.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (47 of 52), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:34 PM Now I thought THAT was funny. Maybe there's hope for me after all!
Topic: The Metamorphosis (48 of 52), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:31 PM Thanks! I don't really care for black humor, but I am truly going to try to find it here. I read this years ago as a school assignment and don't remember, but can just imagine, what I thought of it then!
Topic: The Metamorphosis (49 of 52), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:29 PM Thanks for the welcome! I am going to sit down and re-read Metamorphosis tonight and really try to find the humor.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (50 of 52), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 02:56 PM Glad to have you here Amy. Why don't you go up to Welcome to the Webboard and introduce yourself? What do you read when you're not reading Kafka? Ruth
Topic: The Metamorphosis (51 of 52), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 03:38 PM I want to also welcome Tressa up there a ways. We'd love for you to introduce yourself too. Wow, we should read Kafka more often, if it inspires this many new people to join us. Sherry
Topic: The Metamorphosis (52 of 52), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 09:23 PM Amy, Tressa & Mark-- Welcome & looking forward to hearing more from y'all. Tressa-- I thought your 'reaching' was great, actually. Makes a lot of sense. I thought the apple was connected to Genesis/Paradise Lost also (I won't rehash the reasons, they're in post #25)... but like all Kafka's 'symbols' the use of the apple is both serious & satiric and raises as many questions as it may resolve. Biblical (half) reference crop up in many places, for example the boarders receding at the end like the 3 wise men. I'm fascinated by one of the last scenes where Grete says she "won't utter my brother's name in the presence of this creature, and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it." Then just a few lines later we get:"If only he could understand us," said her father, half questioningly; Grete, still sobbing, vehemently waved a hand to show how unthinkable that was." Then with Gregor still present she says: "He must go," cried Gregor's sister, "that's the only solution, Father. You must just try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor. The fact that we've believed it for so long is the root of all our misfortune. But how can it be Gregor? If this were Gregor..." Kafka, after having Grete say she will avoid using Gregor's name, seems to be determined to get it as many times as possible into the next lines. Why? What tranformation of Grete's have we as readers just been witness to?
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 04:55 PM George, The sister starts out referring to the insect as "it" but her father uses "he," acknowledging his possible humanity, and the sister follows suit. Although they have never been able to understand Gregor after the transformation, they do seem to realize that he has become the insect. It's really quite obliging of Gregor to follow his sister's suggestion and just die. Do you think we could say that his family killed him? Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (54 of 64), Read 69 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 04:54 AM Ann-- The pronouns, nice, I didn't notice that. On the scene I posted... It's good in the 1st paragraph to hear Gregor fantasizing while listening to Grete play the violin--> I think it's the only place in the story where Gregor dares to envision something he would actually enjoy happening. The interruption of Grete's playing is catastrophic, as Grete goes from musician to laundress and the violin crashes to the ground resonantly. Gregor's last physical acts also include the ground--> he bangs his head on it to turn, scuttles over it, then collapses. When a senseless object (the violin) falls, it gives a resonant thud... when Gregor falls there is no sound or empathy... unless Kafka's story itself IS the resonant thud. A little later in the story Mr. Samsa evicts the boarders he couldn't stand up to on Gregor's behalf... in fact, the family confronts the boarders side-by-side as a unified front. Why the family couldn't unify like this with Gregor present is beyond me. With Mr. Samsa's 'bulging eyes' and Mrs. Samsa's emotional narcolepsy and the 'scuttling' boarders these people are just as grotesque as Gregor was. The description of the departing boarders fascinates me: "In the hall all three took their hats from the rack, their sticks from the umbrella stand, bowed in silence, and left the apartment. With a suspiciousness that proved quite unfounded Mr. Samsa and the two women followed them out to the landing; leaning over the banister they watched the three figures slowly but surely going down the long stairs, vanishing from sight at a certain turn of the staircase on every floor and coming into view again after a moment or so; the more they dwindled, the more the Samsa family's interest in them dwindled, and when a butcher's boy met them and passed them on the stairs coming up proudly with a tray on his head, Mr. Samsa and the two women soon left the landing and as if a burden had been lifted from them went back into their apartment." Optically that seems a metaphor for the emotional capabilities of these people--> the more something dwindles (like the starving Gregor), the more their interest dwindles. Their interest, like their vision, is incomplete anyway (the vanishing from sight and coming into view effect caused by the staircase). When a new figure comes into their vision (the butcher boy) they can stop looking at the old. In this case the new optic figure is their own inhumane dream that eclipses the very humane Gregor.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (55 of 64), Read 66 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 08:59 AM George, I wouldn't be quite so hard on the family. Try putting yourself in this nightmare. If your son/sibling had been turned into a repulsive bug and you didn't know he retained his human intelligence because you couldn't understand anything he said, how likely would you be to relate to him as a human being? For me, a large part of the horror of this little tale was sympathizing with the sister and mother, as well as Gregor. I liked your analysis of the significance of the violin scene. Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (56 of 64), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mark Thorn takemetokazakstan@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 10:41 AM "I won't utter my brother's name in the presence of this creature, and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it. We've tried to look after it and to put up with it as far as is humanly possible, and I don't think anyone could reproach us in the slightest." This paragraph is definitely the turning point in the book, the moment of truth when the sister finally pounces on her brother. It sounds so well thought out, almost like she had planned the speech in advance, and that she had long since made up her mind that the creature had to go. That said-- if you take a look at the original German version, it definitely drips with hesitation and uncertainty. She starts out not knowing where she's going to go with this, and ends up giving bro the boot. "Ich will vor diesem Untier nicht den Namen meines Bruders aussprechen, und sage daher bloß: wir müssen versuchen, es loszuwerden. Wir haben das Menschenmögliche versucht, es zu pflegen und zu dulden, ich glaube, es kann uns niemand den geringsten Vorwurf machen." Retranslated here (by me, which by extension means that this translation is not to be trusted): "I will not speak my brother's name in front of this creature, and therefore say only: we must try, to lose it. We've done all that's humanly possible, to maintain and bear it, I think, no one can reproach us in the slightest." The commas, it's all about the commas in there-- she's really hesitant in German, but the translator blended all her short phrases into smooth complex sentences. She picks up steam within a paragraph or two-- once she's gone and said it, she realizes it's what she wants and what her parents want, and while she might feel guilty (wouldn't you?), she's pleased she's finally broken through and said it. But up to that point, there's serious hesitation. Three paragraphs later, when she starts speaking again, the fragmentation in her words is gone, and she flows again. Thought that might be worth mentioning.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (57 of 64), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 10:46 AM Ann-- You're absolutely right--> and I have much empathy with this family in this nightmare. But I believe they also (and all) stand accused for some things. The image of Gregor, non-threatening bug he has been, starving and weak, banging his head on the floor in full view of his family only to be locked away--> well that's a hard mental picture to get past. Forget relating to him as a human being, at that point I'd probably relate to him as an animal in distress. I understand their position though, the slippery slopes of judgement in the story are one of its greatnesses. As economical and powerfully symbolic an author as Kafka was, I found it impossible to pass by the particular description of the boarders' departure as meaningless or fluff. It had to be written that way for a reason, and I can't think of one besides what I stated in my last post. It seems to me a metaphor of vision--> a description of how they've misinterpreted events because the mechanism of their 'seeing' is as faulty as the mechanics of their familial communications...
Topic: The Metamorphosis (58 of 64), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 12:20 PM MARK: The difference between the translator's reading of the passage and yours, the sense of the speech with the punctuation given its due, is most enlightening. Given my sense of Kafka's reputation as a "psychological" writer, I find that your interpretation delivers a stunningly truthful description of the sister's reaction - not just unfeeling dismissal of Gregor but a working out, in all too human terms, of a human response to an incomprehensible situation. The horror of: no one can reproach us in the slightest Not Kafka: I have no reason not to trust your translations (except your disclaimer, which could be false modesty), so I will trust them until they are challenged and there is evidence supporting the challenge. Exclamation! Why did you have all that schooling? pres
Topic: The Metamorphosis (59 of 64), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, May 08, 2003 12:29 PM The notes on this have been wonderful. What I find most amazing about the story, is that no one asked WHY he was a bug and HOW did he get to be a bug. No one said "What happened?" Sherry
Topic: The Metamorphosis (60 of 64), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Friday, May 09, 2003 03:11 AM Is he really a bug? Or is Kafka substituting bug for corpse? Doesn't this possibly sound like dying and a death in the family; a wake; and then a discussion about a corpse/bug that loses its humanity as the soul departs, albeit slowly. Or maybe Kafka is just a nut-case as I originally thought and the whole thing is meaningless. Or did Kafka had one hell of a sense of humor and decided to write obscurely so that academics throughout the ages would have something to discuss but never come to a conclusion? EDD
Topic: The Metamorphosis (61 of 64), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Friday, May 09, 2003 03:35 AM I'll take the third.
Topic: The Metamorphosis (62 of 64), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, May 09, 2003 08:15 AM Edd, Well, that is definitely an interesting way to look at it. It even makes sense :). Ann
Topic: The Metamorphosis (63 of 64), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, May 09, 2003 09:11 AM Mark-- Your post was awesome... sometimes the search for the 'why?' in writing obscures the 'how is it so damn good?'... your translation and points are very enlightening. Edd-- That wake idea is fantastic... if it ain't true, it should be. As for Kafka writing obscurely, I believe that... but not only to baffle scholars (a small part I'm sure but Kafka was writing out of deep need, if not even to save his own life.) Harold Bloom says: "My working principle in reading Kafka is to observe that he did everything possible to evade interpretation..." He goes on to guess that Kafka was evading interpretation from the standpoint of Jewish tradition, where to be interpreted is to be judged. Kafka said he wanted to make it "possible for men to enjoy sin without guilt, almost without guilt" Where 'sin' stands for the creative independence of writing, reading and thought and guilt represents the knowledge of the writer, reader, or thinker that they will be caught and judged. There's a link http://family.knick.net/thecastle/crossb.htm to Kafka's "The Cares of a Family Man", a very short and magnificent parable that contains a being named Odradek. It is said about him: 'In any case, closer scrutiny is impossible, since Odradek is extraordinarily nimble and can never be laid hold of.' and 'Of course, you put no difficult questions to him, you treat him--he is so diminutive that you cannot help it--rather like a child. "Well, what's your name?" you ask him. "Odradek," he says. "And where do you live?" "No fixed abode," he says and laughs; but it is only the kind of laughter that has no lungs behind it. It sounds rather like the rustling of fallen leaves.' Perhaps Kafka's view of 'meaning' in a story? Nimble, charismatic, and with no fixed abode...
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, May 09, 2003 12:17 PM but Kafka was writing out of deep need, if not even to save his own life. Hear! Hear! Harold Bloom says: "My working principle in reading Kafka is to observe that he did everything possible to evade interpretation..." How can a writer "evade interpretation" ? To say he evades interpretation, interprets him. pres, chief anti-Bloom
From: Martin Porter martin@tartarus.org Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 05:58 PM Wonderful notes here, and I have enjoyed reading through them. I notice themes: is what seems to be happening really happening? why an apple? what of the three lodgers? why such a classic? is it funny? what is the underlying meaning, if indeed it has one? This last point only tacked perhaps by Dean and Pres. I do have a view on the apple, and the classic status. The father, I think, is not really made to appear more vigorous as the story proceeds: his grand appearance in uniform is ironic. He has taken a lowly job at a bank where he has been put into the fancy costume of a commissionaire. We soon learn that the uniform becomes stained and dirty, even if the buttons continue to shine (like Gregor's shiny but dirty carapace perhaps). And so the moment where he appears to be asserting paternal authority at the end of chapter 2 degenerates into the behaviour of an angry boy as he hurls apples at Gregor. He is like a schoolboy raiding an orchard. The apple will do Gregor more damage than most fruits. It is hard enough to lodge in his back, and decays slowly enough to cause disease. I think the apple illustrates the father's failure to behave as a true father, as well as reminding us of the continuing abuse to Gregor. (Equally, I don't think the daughter really blossoms. The last sentence of the story is about the parents getting the idea of marrying her off to their own advantage. A rich son-in-law may be as useful as a dutiful and industrious son.) Nabokov thought Metamorphosis was the second greatest piece of writing of the 20th century - he gave first place to Joyce's Ulysses. I'm not sure how many times I've read it, but reading it yesterday was no less exciting than reading for the first time forty years ago. To me the miracle of Kafka is how vividly real the reading experience becomes. What he gives you is like a dream, but you feel you are not so much dreaming his dream, but living it. In Amerika - certainly my favourite - you are in a New York city set in a Bohemian countryside and full of officials with wing-collars and pince-nez taken from the Austro-Hungarian empire. And yet it is more real to me than the real America I did once visit. In Metamorphosis you are as close to having Gregor's experience as it is possible to be. The skill of the writing seems to be in cutting short the description just when Kafka knows the imagination of the reader can take over, and being able to shift between man and insect in just the right way when it comes to describing Gregor's body and mind. So we are deliberately left in doubt about the size, shape, number of legs that Gregor has. The insect is painted in a few brush-strokes, and the reader creates the full picture. A lesser writer might have simply given Gregor a human mind in an insect body. But Kafka shows us Gregor's insect mind, as he finds comfort in walking over the walls and pleasure in eating decayed food, and looks forward to his room being cleared of furniture. But then the human side of Gregor will unexpectedly reassert itself: he wants to keep his room furnishings after all. They are part of his past, which continues to have the same importance for him. Gregor's body has numerous touches of humanity. He breathes, he has neck muscles, he can close his eyes. The eyes in fact are a constant reminder of Gregor's inner humanity, "Gregor crawled a little farther forward, and lowered his head to the ground, so that his eyes might meet hers." There is of course a slight progression from human towards insect throughout the story. But there are always reversals. Kafka also gives just enough hints about the passage of time for us to understand the time frame which Gregor gradually loses. The Christmas, where he was looking forward to making a family announcement, passes him by unnoticed, and story ends in warm sunshine. It is a plausible life-span for an insect, and from the realism of Gregor's death caused by family neglect, we suddenly see the alternative but equally realistic brush-and-pan disposal of a dead bug. I was very interested by Mark T's comparison of the German and English. It is easy to forget how much prose loses by translation, and these reminders are salutary.
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 10:07 PM Martin-- An awesome note... I especially liked when you dealt with Christmas, insect life and the disposal. I'm currently trapped, however, by the wording of the story (or simply the translation... Mark?) into disagreeing with your assessment of the metamorphosis of the father & daughter. I think ignoring the growth of their gender-specific traits (the father's masculinity and work/the daughter's physical appearance) misses one of the points of the tale. The father becoming more vigorous... how else are we to interpret this?: 'And yet, and yet, could that be his father? The man who used to lie wearily sunk in bed whenever Gregor set out on a business trip; who on the evenings of his return welcomed him back lying in an easy chair in his bathrobe; who could not really rise to his feet but only lifted his arms in greeting, and who on the rare occasions when he did go out with his family, on one or two Sundays a year and on the most important holidays, walked between Gregor and his mother, who were slow walkers themselves, even more slowly than they did, muffled in his old overcoat, shuffling laboriously forward with the help of his crook-handled cane, which he set down most cautiously at every step and, whenever he wanted to say anything, nearly always came to a full stop and gathered his escort around him? Now he was standing there straight as a stick, dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons, such as bank attendants wear; his strong double chin bulged over the stiff high collar of his jacket; from under his bushy eyebrows his black eyes darted fresh and penetrating glances; his formerly tangled white hair had been combed flat on either side of a shining and carefully exact parting. He pitched his cap, which bore a gold monogram, probably the badge of some bank, in a wide arc across the whole room onto a sofa and with the tail ends of his jacket thrown back, his hands in his trouser pockets, advanced with a grim visage toward Gregor.' I can't imagine, if Kafka had wanted to portray vigor, how he could have bettered this. As for the daughter, the story says she blooms, and I believe it. She's at the age where, catastrophes or not, girls bloom. These changes, by the story's internal logic, have to take place anyway. The sister's innocent and interested compassion is poisoned by encroaching sexuality. The father's son-eclipsed weakness, the abdication of his throne so to speak, is reversed by the destruction of the son.
From: Martin Porter martin@tartarus.org Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 04:07 AM "How else are we to interpret this?" Well, as I suggested, it can be interpreted ironically, I think, but I'm not saying it has to be interpreted that way. Of course the father is 'metamorphosed' - and we are meant to compare it with Gregor's metamorphosis, but he will soon slip back into his old habits of laziness and abuse. Having cried SPOILER! perhaps the last two sentences might be quoted, "They ... exchanged glances of complete agreement, having come to the conclusion that it would soon be time to find a good husband for her. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and excellent intentions that ... their daughter sprang to her feet first and stretched her young body." Grete's blooming is something seen by the parents. The emphasis really is their plans for her, to marry her off for their own advantage. So the theme of parental abuse is continued, and this is, surely, one of the major themes in the whole work. It is ingenious how we slowly learn the extent of Gregor's abuse before he was transformed. As well as supporting his parents and sister in a flat beyond their means and needs there are two servants (cook and serving girl). The father has extra savings he tells Gregor nothing about. By making their plight seem more desperate than it really is, Gregor can be kept tied to the job that gets him out of bed at four in the morning. After the transformation you have of course the idea of the deformed or mentally handicapped family member hidden away in the back room - a real part of nineteenth century life. Here perhaps Kafka's story does belong to its time. Nowadays, the Samsa family would all appear on Oprah Winfrey, with thoughtful questions from the audience and analysis by Dr Phil. But at that time to keep it secret - not even calling a doctor - would seem less surreal than it does today. The three lodgers help continue the idea of abuse. By hiding Gregor from them, Gregor is abused. By needing to do so the family is abused. The lodgers treat the family with insolent condescension. But they only gain this ascendancy because of the father's laziness in not standing up to them. As soon as he does so, their leader crumbles, and the two followers are unable to act without him. The final crisis with Gregor, and the support of wife and daughter, give the father what little extra courage he needs to get the better of them. Like George H, I find the image of the three departing lodgers, going down the spiral staircase, and in and out of view to the family watching at the top, one of the most striking in the whole story. I do not know why this should be so.
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 07:00 AM Great notes, Martin and George. I always thought that the father's "illness" was a put-on. Just a ploy to allow himself to be coddled and cause Gregor to feel guilty enough to stay at the awful job. But when the ploy no longer was effective, he had to get up and go to work. Is that a metamorphosis? I don't really think so. I think he resented he wasn't the beneficiary of Gregor's work which made him angry enough to bean him with the apple. I agree with the reason for it being an apple. The missile had to be food in order for it to decay. If it had been a boot or a hockey puck, it wouldn't have had an on-going effect. Sherry
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 08:49 AM Martin-- Now that I can see... the father has changed, to a frightening extent from Gregor's eyes. But he will change back. I still can't take the daughter's change as ironic... I know a lot of adolescents who try to go through puberty ironically but it never seems to work for them. Sherry-- I totally agree... the father's 'weakness' was a put-on. But I think it is a change. I'll stake a wild personal guess and say that Kafka was the kind of person who would be more awed and intruiged by an emotional, mental or spiritual change than by a physical. Part of the drive of the story, it seems to me, is to demonstrate that the everyday changes people go through, from strong to weak, from confident to insecure, from deceptive to truthful and back again, from loving to cold... these changes are more mysterious and important than whether we inhabit bodies with two legs or eight. Gregor's physical transformation is the sounding-board off which Kafka bounces the rest of the story's transmutations. The story is a savagely balanced set of scales, with Gregor's change on one side and the destruction/construction of familial, societal, and personal bonds and roles in the other. I simply ask while reading what is more terrifying... a loved one who changes outwardly into a manifestation of what he felt he was inwardly anyway (Gregor) or a father who seemed to be naturally drifting into decrepitude who can gain ferocious strength only when he needs it to replace and/or annihilate his own blood? In the end of the day, I think Kafka found Gregor the least changed and least frightening character in the story. What a unique accomplishment for a writer. The creature in a tale that looks like a horror story is the only thing in the story that can't induce fright in the reader or the writer. It's like watching a remake of 'The Birds' where the people go around for two hours scaring the hell out of crows.
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 06:16 PM This is the second time I have read this story. The first time, years ago I thought it odd and could not make head or tails of it. However I had a distinctly unpleasant feeling reading it. It's the other worldly feeling that bothered me. I faced an internal battle to make myself read this story once more. I am glad I did, the more so as I looked up Kafka on the net and got struck by the "strange culture" as well. The family seemed totally isolated with no social contacts, pleasures, hobbies, interests. This brings me to the matter of the cultural isolation jewish families experienced living in Prague at the time. Strangely enough the family is characterized as Catholic. I see Gregor's transformation as an exaggerated realization of what his life was like and how he differs from the rest of the family and the surrounding world. The story is making a point and a sad one at that. Kafka was isolated from his family, by his literary gift of being able to put fantasy into written form, his religion (to which neither he nor his family paid attention to) but mainly to the fact that particular cultural group differed from the rest of the inhabitants of Prague. Jews were German speaking, usually of middle or upper middle class status and surrounded by 90% Czech speaking Czechs. To get a deeper understanding of this point, his books, his fantasies, etc. I would strongly suggest the Kafka website. While Metamorphosis did not appeal to me (how could it) it broadened my understanding of the particular culture and the effect it has on the people. Ernie
From: Amy Ramsak doctorramsak@aol.com Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 08:11 PM Ruth--when I'm not reading Kafka I read just about anything I can get my hands on. Currently I'm also reading a biography of Al Capone and The Epic of Gilgamesh.
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003 08:19 AM Wonderful notes. I would only say that I felt quite certain the father (whom I disliked as much as everyone else) was chronically depressed before his transformation. The section that George quoted above certainly sounds like it. Depressed people can also be very manipulative, and I see the father as both. Necessity snapped him out of his lethargy and the job helped him overcome his depression. This, of course, did not make him a nicer person.
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003 08:40 AM Ann-- Depressed, yes. Maybe he'd read some Kafka... A truly great story connects. Nobody I know has changed into a bug. So I throw that away as the connection. Plenty of people, however, can relate to a story that shows how people can live with each other without truly knowing each other. They misinterpret one another's 'innerspace', just as each entry into Gregor's room in the story is disastrous. Instead of thinking and feeling our way into the mentality of someone important to us, we rearrange their furniture. The accuracy and honesty of Kafka's portrayal of the breakdown of communication and the sinister rapidity with which it can occur... I think it's a rare and amazing feat.
From: R Bavetta Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003 11:54 AM I've loved reading everyone's notes here. This has been one of my favorite books for so long, that it's great to see all these points of view. George, I think you summed it up very well. R
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003 12:31 PM George, "Depressed, yes. Maybe he'd read some Kafka..." Thanks for the chuckle. Ann
From: Peggy Ramsey ashputtle@comcast.com Date: Friday, May 16, 2003 10:07 AM I'm coming a little late to the party here, and don't have a whole lot to add, but I'm surprised no one made the connection between Gregor Samsa and our little friend Alice from last February. Ok, maybe not surprised, but I was struck right away by the similarity between the way the two characters accepted their transformations -- as soon as Gregor become a bug, I thought of Alice. Peggy You can wordify anything if you just verb it. Bucky Katt
From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, May 16, 2003 09:10 PM Good point, Peggy. They never questioned their new reality. Ann
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 12:33 AM Sorry to say it must have been my posting that somehow got lost. After reading what all you readers had to say there is little that I can come up that is new or different. When I first read Metamorphosis years ago, I just found it morbid and that turned me off. So I took my time before I could get around reading it a second time. It seems to me Gregor felt totally rejected and has accepted that he is just a different type of "animal- a bug- and does not see himself human. He distances himself from others just as he felt that other people distance themselves from him. The focus is on the family. Of course we are talking about Kafka who now fantasizes the ultimate fate: A disgusting bug who is isolated, lives a morbid dream has distances him from his human surroundings. It's a morbid fantasy frequently found in such "isolates" like Kafka. Reality has fallen by the wayside. But note, the bug does not complain of the mental pain he has undergone, to end up that way. In his fantasy world now he is beyond pain and feels that having been cast aside, he accepts his fate and dies... I see this tragedy of isolation very well described and some of us readers may speculate about the magnitude of pain that turned a human being into a bug . Ernie
From: Jonathan Metts jonathan@planetgamecube.com Date: Sunday, June 01, 2003 10:32 PM Forgive me for not reading this entire thread...I shouldn't have left this section alone for so long! First, I just want to commend Dean on his first post on this topic. I wish I had written exactly that for my paper on "The Metamorphosis" when I had to read it for a literature course. Instead, I threw together something pretty bland and unmemorable...I remember all of my good papers, so this one must have been really lackluster. I do remember the story though, to some extent. I thought it was somewhat funny in a grotesque way, but not as surreal or as entertaining as I had expected from hearing the premise. No offense to all of your wonderful analyses, but Kafka strikes me as the kind of guy who would write something that seems to be overtly symbolic but really isn't, just to get people talking about nothing. And in the case of "The Metamorphosis", I think that's as likely as not, but you could certainly argue either way. I couldn't make heads or tails of the story, so I tried to take it on face value, and that didn't get me far either. It struck me almost like a hack science-fiction story, in that perhaps Kafka started writing with this silly premise and then just filled in the rest as he went, letting it flow out naturally until the story came to some kind of closure. Because he's a genius, there are a lot of interesting and brilliant things along the way, but in the end, the story means nothing except what he put in subconsciously. That's just a theory though, and not necessarily what I believe. But again, I think it's as likely as not, and probably it wasn't touched upon too much already. Jonathan Published daily at PlanetGameCube.com Currently reading: The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, June 05, 2003 10:20 AM Jonathan-- Kafka is not everyone's cup of black tea, and I understand your desire to hedge your interpretive bet in case he turns out to be a huge literary hoax so that you can say you weren't taken in, but... With Kafka we meet a writer whose mind was so sharp it shredded what it tried so hard to believe in. Culture, love, god, he couldn't quite get there. But writing, as Kafka said, was his covenant, the one thing internal skepticism couldn't obliterate. To say that he sold out his one hard-earned belief to 'get people talking about nothing' is intellectually lazy. And to say a story that has meant so much to so many means nothing is a statement which needs way more firepower than you put behind it to be taken seriously. If the discussion hadn't already crawled across the finish line I would've liked to find out why you thought this emperor had no clothes, but I think there's a distinction between Kafka's using his considerable artistic resources to fight the tired hobgoblin of 'meaning' and having no meaning at all...
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Thursday, June 05, 2003 11:46 AM GEORGE: Very thought provoking, indeed. Makes me think of Kafka as a supposed nuclear weapons site - to be approached with care. And I think that was my reaction when he was "fashionable" and I read him and about him. pres
From: Jonathan Metts jonathan@planetgamecube.com Date: Thursday, June 05, 2003 05:02 PM George, when I say it's as likely as not that the story means nothing, what I really meant to say is that it probably means something, but less than the in-depth theories I've seen in the thread while skimming through it. And I studied this story in school too, so I've heard quite a few theories. Perhaps it's a personality flaw, but when I see something deconstructed so thoroughly (and with so much variety), my inclination is to disregard most of the analysis and assume a simpler answer. I'm sure Kafka put his own symbols into this story, and he had is own little lessons and personal jokes hidden as well. But then again, why can't there just be a story about a guy who turns into a bug? If I were a brilliant writer like Kafka, I would very much enjoy occasionally doing a story that meant far less than I knew most people would assume it to mean. And the fact that Kafka explained almost nothing about his writing increases that possibility, though probably not beyond the level of conspiracy theory. Bob Dylan has described himself as "just a song and dance man". It's obviously a joke, but amid all of his masterfully complex lyrics, I know that a small percentage of Dylan's songs, including some that are endlessly analyzed and deconstructed, are actually very simple and straightforward. And I also know enough about Dylan to know that he absolutely loves to watch people try to dig into shallow material and then try to claim that they discovered some amazing nugget of insight. Jonathan Published daily at PlanetGameCube.com Currently reading: The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, June 05, 2003 05:28 PM Jonathan-- I appreciate your viewpoint, but judging The Metamorphosis by its commentators is like judging the Pharoahs for the architecture of Las Vegas. Calling this story 'shallow material' with 'little lessons' and to hint that the kind of discussion we had here is a kind of fruitless wheel-spinning that Kafka would have scorned I think is badly off the mark. You say a small percentage of Dylan's songs are pranks, I presume you think some of the other percentage are in fact masterpieces. Can you tell the difference? Can you explain the difference? If some of Kafka's tales were masterpieces and this one was a vast joke, what is the difference between them? Between 'The Judgement' and this? Between 'The Castle' and this? They seem to me very much of a piece...
From: R Bavetta Date: Thursday, June 05, 2003 07:22 PM I think the fact that a single story, or song, or painting, can be interpreted in many different ways does not trivialize it. We each bring to every book, tale, symphony, our own life and our own experiences. Marcel Duchamp said a work of art is completed in the eye of the viewer. R
From: Jonathan Metts jonathan@planetgamecube.com Date: Friday, June 06, 2003 01:10 AM Sorry George, I'm not insulting Kafka, the story, or its admirers, nor do I mean to belittle the vast discussion above...there are certainly some excellent ideas, and I liked Dean's first post in particular. Please realize that, to some extent, I am playing Devil's Advocate here. I see all these different interpretations, and one person says it has this meaning while another person says it has that meaning. I suggest that perhaps there is no meaning. It's just another interpretation. As for Dylan (who I think is reasonably analogous to Kafka in certain ways, which is why I brought him up to begin with), I do honestly believe some of his songs are in fact quite straightforward and shallow, though I don't think the latter necessarily has to be a bad thing when used in moderation. But you'll notice that I did not claim to know which songs have true depth and which do not; I simply suspect that the two categories (with some blending) do exist. The only one who knows for sure is Bob Dylan, and I don't think he'll ever tell. But I definitely feel comfortable in assuming that he derives some amount of pleasure at being misinterpreted, because he certainly isn't trying to set the record straight, and I can't imagine that he just doesn't care. And I'm suggesting that perhaps Kafka was the same way. Is that so blasphemous? I think it makes them even more interesting as creative minds, not less. Jonathan Published daily at PlanetGameCube.com Currently reading: The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, June 06, 2003 08:37 AM ...and forgive me, Jonathan--> I'm not suggesting you've insulted anybody, or that you have anything but love for this place and good discussion in general. You've brought a fun and provocative angle to this thing. But a Devil's Advocate requires a response by definition, no? Sure Dylan is analogous, but if you can't tell which song is in which category, how can you tell which passage of Kafka's should be assigned into prankdom? The targeting of meaning here used evidence from the text, other writings of his, biography, etc., Your speculation uses the fact the story confuses you and a comparison to an enigmatic troubadour--> a foundation that might hold a guess that a certain small passage in The Metamorphosis was built for fun, but not one strong enough to hold what you're putting onto it, and I can't agree that saying something is meaningless classifies as just another 'interpretation'. I just feel that, with Kafka, you're hunting big game, and to paraphrase (I think) the immortal Chief Brody: You're gonna need a bigger boat. P.S.-- Based on the relative merits of the two stories, if you don't jump into the Poe discussion and say that tale is almost meaningless I'm going to be hugely disappointed. There's a fish you could catch from a small canoe...
From: Martin Porter martin@tartarus.org Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003 12:20 PM As Jonathan has proved, it's never too late to add something to a thread about Kafka, and the question of the 'final meaning' of Metamorphosis is worth another visit. What I notice reading the discussion again, is the broad level of agreement among the readers, more so, than in, say, The Mill on the Floss. Perhaps that is because the question of what the story, ultimately, is about, was not a major point at issue. And why should it be? Because Kafka seems to invite a search for meaning, it doesn't follow that the search has to be the main focus of reading him. Jody Richael quotes Kafka saying Metamorphosis was an indiscretion, and wondered what he meant by that. This actually comes from Gustav Janouch's book Conversations with Kafka. It is something Kafka said rather than wrote, so one must be a little wary of the reporter, but the context indicates that for Kafka this, as with so much of his writing, was about his own family: K: - It is, in a certain sense, an indiscretion. J: - I know nothing about that. K: - Is it perhaps delicate and discreet to talk about the bugs in one's own family? J: - It isn't usual in good society. K: - You see what bad manners I have. Dale Short quotes from Neider's intro, suggesting Samsa's family was the opposite of Kafka's, but I don't think Kafka would have seen it that way. Kafka was hard working. His father was wealthy already, but Kafka was not too impressed with wealth. 'Possessions are materialistic insecurity' he says elsewhere. And Neider is way off the mark suggesting Kafka 'slipped' with the ending. Perhaps Kafka saw himself, like Samsa, as the monster of his family. But that is not the way we see the story, I think. My own belief (I stick my neck out here) is that Metamorphosis is about what it means to be human. Not just the big issues of intellect, emotion and beliefs, but our instincts and habits. The opening moment where Gregor reacts to his transformation by worrying that he will be late for work shows this at its most tragic. And also its most comic. It is this sense that the work is comic - although we're not inclined to laugh: we can imagine it as part of a comedy routine ("Well can you imagine? Me, turned into an insect? After all, I had a train to catch. And how was I supposed to get my trousers on?" etc) The dehumanisation of Kafka's own circle as they were herded off to the camps after Kafka's death is something you are always conscious of while reading the story. This was not part of Kafka's understanding of his story, but it has to be ours. (A typical footnote from Janouch's interesting memoir: "Ernest Lederer (b. 1904) wrote lyric poems, of which some appeared in the review Junge Juda (Young Judah). He died in a concentration camp, together with his mother, his sister, and his brother.")
From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003 12:36 PM I'm a bit timid about posting this, but I was struck with the idea that this story is based on the opposite side of the coin from anthropomorphism and wondered if Kafka was purposely challenging us to question our beliefs about life's hierarchies. Beej
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003 07:18 PM This thread must be one of the most fraught of all CR discussions: Eighty nine messages so far, and some have been read more than two hundred and fifty times. And nowhere do I sense a sense of resolution or that the looked for meaning has been found. Which is, perhaps, the essence of Kafka's genius if you believe in it. I am boggled by the fact that the discussion of an unreal world is so intense. Man turns into insect. Frog turns into prince. How does his mother feel about it? Why do we invest the story with more meaning than other fantasies or, even, psyche rooted folk tales? An allegory is the representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative form. But, if this is intended as allegory then surely it is a failure because the ideas or principles have not been clearly conveyed. Or should we learn from this that the "best" writing is really a mirror that makes us wonder who we are? (Note: I recognize the difference between a story that tells us a change has occurred and a story that brings us to live the change. As Ruth would say, "Show. Don't Tell". (A great precept but without room for the ancestral story tellers squatting in the dust.) In The Metamorphosis we are shown and we complain because we can't agree on what we were told - if anything. Intolerance is the atmosphere stories generate. E. M. Forster, ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL.) pres
From: R Bavetta Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003 07:48 PM and we complain because we can't agree on what we were told - if anything Who's complaining? R
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003 08:31 PM ME
From: George H malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, June 08, 2003 01:13 AM Pres-- I too am surprised by the ferocity of the 'meaning' discussion. What does 'Finnegans Wake' mean? 'Hamlet'? 'The Bacchae'? 'Blood Meridian'? 'Don Quixote'? 'Gravity's Rainbow'? The great literary corpses are restless, we fling the coffin lids off only to find a mysterious assortment of treasures but no bodies. So why must Kafka, in this great and baffling tradition, get this volume of complaints? I can't understand it. Gregor turns into a bug (accomplished in the 1st paragraph)... Finnegan has a 500 page free-associated nightmare in which he is Everyman, his own lover, and a river. Hamlet sees a ghost that others see first then sees it when no one else can. Vardaman's (As I Lay Dying) mother is a fish. There are 800 some characters in Gravity's Rainbow. We're all still waiting for Godot. Obscurities abound. And we readers should be grateful they do. Pit & the Pendulum seems pretty straightforward to me, and horribly written. There I have a meaning, but am unenriched. Not everyone can (or should) be Jack London. The Metamorphosis fails as allegory because it's not one. Terminological straightjackets like 'allegory' fail when dealing with Kafka, or Joyce, or Shakespeare. Vaclav Havel, a noble man who has known and seen much suffering, said: 'In Kafka, I have found a portion of my own experience of the world, of myself, and of my way of being in the world.' A writer, through sheer imagination, returned a lost shard of this man back to him, making him more whole. Not an easy task, and a thing which would operate differently for each questing mind. Because the process isn't the same for everyone or is hard to agree upon or doesn't work in all cases doesn't invalidate the power that is there...
From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Sunday, June 08, 2003 01:05 PM Thanks, GEORGE. pres
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 01:03 AM Just as Hamlet is a reflection of a man's life and fate so is Metamorphosis. The author feels a strong need to reflect on his fate and feelings and feels a need to pass it on to others. He has to get it out of his system so to speak. I am reminded of a few lines that Goethe commented on when a considerable number of German young men committed suicide after reading the Sorrows of Young Werther. He stated that he was stunned by these suicide since writing this book he got this unhappy love affaire out of his system. To induce others to suffer and kill themselves was the last thing that he expected and it was with great regretted to feel in part responsible for it. Kafka's bug lost his feelings and had to get away from mankind and this is the essence of the tragedy. Ernie Well, here we have it why people write (unless the prolific mystery and romance writers whose titles you see as best sellers in every book store. Ernie
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 12:56 AM George H. It's almost a month since you made your fascinating comments. I had to read these lines a number of times to appreciate them fully. I admire your mind and your feeling for fine literature. Ernie
From: Joe Barreiro jbarreiro@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, September 25, 2003 09:00 PM Those who read The Metamorphosis might find this of interest. Random House has published an illustrated version (in the graphic novel manner) by Peter Kuper. A short animation of the first few pages can be seen at this link: http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/metamorphosis/ Joe B
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@comcast.net Date: Friday, September 26, 2003 12:51 AM Thanks for the link! The bit that is on-line is nicely done, but I would have preferred a more buggy head on that bug's body. Tonya
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, September 26, 2003 08:36 AM Pretty amazing, but I agree with Tonya. Sherry

 
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka

 
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