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Historical Context in The Metamorphosis

Publication History: It took Kafka only a few weeks in 1912 to finish the first draft of The Metamorphosis. With encouragement from author Max Brod, Kafka’s friend, Kafka published the story in the German journal Die Weißen Blätter (The White Pages) three years later. Initial reception to The Metamorphosis was warm, allowing Kafka to win the Theodor Fontane prize, a German-language literary award. Due to Kafka’s popularity, the first translation into English was released in 1933. Since then, at least ten other English translations have attempted to render Kafka’s nuanced diction.

Marxism: Having been conceived and disseminated a few decades prior to The Metamorphosis’s publication in 1915, there are a few Marxist influences on the text. Marxism posits that capitalism takes advantages of its weakest members, benefiting those who own and control rather than those who work. Conflict arises from the owners taking advantage of the workers. Remnants of this philosophy can be seen in Gregor’s relationship with his nonworking family members, who arguably take advantage of his drive and work ethic.

Historical Context Examples in The Metamorphosis:

Chapter II

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"the gas was lit..."   (Chapter II)

In the early 20th century, people still used gas lamps in their houses. Here, Kafka contrasts the warm, comforting glow of the gas lamps in the living room with the pale, electric light of the street lamps Gregor noticed on the ceiling of his room. This use of light divides the two rooms, making one seem like a place of warmth and togetherness and the other a tiny room of darkness and misery.

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"which she had left uncovered without a band or collar..."   (Chapter III)

In the early 20th century, a woman's neck was generally covered by a collar or a scarf as a sign of modesty, but women in the work force, who weren't typically thought of as ladies, sometimes went without it. Grete's change in wardrobe should be understood as another kind of transformation, one that traces her development from a young, often thoughtless woman to an adult who's making her way in the world.

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