Short Fiction

The Metamorphosis

Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he has become a gigantic beetle-like bug. Now a burden to his horrified family, Gregor must adapt to an unpleasant existence of living in garbage and eating putrid waste from the floor. The true theme and purpose of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis has perplexed scholars and readers since its publication in 1915. Obvious themes of alienation, isolation, and inferiority are plausible; however, Kafka never reveals an explicit message, philosophical purpose, or reason behind Gregor’s sudden transformation. This puzzling, unclear purpose adds to the unsettling, visceral response that this novel evokes. Using poignant descriptions told from Gregor’s perspective, Kafka makes the reader’s skin crawl along the floor with Gregor and heart break because of his family’s cruelty. While this book is short and the sentences are confoundingly Kafkaesque, Gregor’s crisis of identity touches on everything from universal questions about our civilization to minute insecurities within our own identities. Read as an allegory, The Metamorphosis gets at questions of what it means to belong, what it means to be an alien, and what it means to be trapped within one’s own skin.

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