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Metamorphosis: An Existentialists Perspective

by Mark Miller

     Kafka's Metamorphosis was his seminal introduction into the pathology world of alienation, depersonalization, and lastly estrangement. Absurd-ism can be seen here as the central theme of conflict symbolized by the contrast of value and worth, rather than the tangible meaning of man's search for meaning in a meaningless universe. He describes it through a plot of a more personable level the dysfunctional of the family structure. The first line in the story envelopes the reader into the body dysmorphic condition of the metamorphosis.Although he is the protagonist I cannot envision the reader feeling concern of empathy for him, but rather a kind of schadenfreude effect- both distant and cruel.

     For most people today rather than worry about their own circumstance they take more interest in the crisis of others. As we move in for a closer glance we begin to see a complexity of dysfunctional pervading the family as a whole.Very much like our family's of today. In my opinion, Gregor's outside appearance is more of a token of symbolization into the looking glass self which becomes realized by Gregor all at once. It has to do with what is occurring on the inside rather than the outside. However, Gregor has been withdrawn and isolated well before this event. He makes superficial relationships with others at his work and the lack of closeness between him and his parents are well apparent. The only other being in his life which provides a humanistic value for Gregor is with his sister Gerda, whom by the way seems to be having her own dignity stripped by way of taboo and incest. This is is more about human value and worth than physical appearance. What's most interesting is that there's never an analysis of feelings, or rather no feelings, other than through Gregor.

     The distancing effect is observed first hand by Gregor's lack of empathy and regard. He is narcissistic and views the weight of the world has been placed upon him to take care of the burden of debt for the family. This becomes the motif throughout the story. Reality is perception and when Gregor notices his father has taken a job to fulfill Gregor's role he feels no need to alter or change in action, thus perception resides. In fact, sliding even deeper into the life of a vermin and into defeatism.
     Now, why does his sister not only see him as vermin but also her brother while the rest of the family only see him as the bug? Maybe she had always seen him as vermin so in her eyes nothing had changed with her brother. He's given up. Thrown in the towel. Toiling in an existential disappearing act to support a family that he probably hadn't ever known. Realizing he didn't know himself either a choice has to be made to either squeak out living on waster and feces or end a life he never got to enjoy. However, his sister seems to take alms at restoring him back into a needful existence. But Gregor's seems not to want it. He is enjoying this rest from existence. From pretending. He didn't seem to work too hard at wanting more from life other than feeling his own redemption for taking care of the debt. The debt carried Gregor's duty, and along with it, his need to be. Sustaining a life for pride's sake is difficult at best. It's a mentalistic condition of the subjective. Remember were seeing everything from Gregor's perspective. Everything is being drawn from a mechanistic burden. He begins crawling up the ceiling and walls as if he's searching for a self that has never been. Because Gregor never was. He represented a payment a burden. So that's what Gregor's will be. He at times takes delight in this new found freedom. No one comes to him and he doesn't have the guilt anymore to go to them.

     But he soon finds out that the one ally in the world, his sister, has taken disfavor to his sight Gregor's slips beyond reach fading further and further away from his own self. Gregor was defined by what he did not by who he was or his innate qualities. Are any of us? How are you defined? Think of yourself as losing your job, your position in life. You've supported yourself and your family from the trade-off in time. But now you feel a sense of usefulness to your own being as the months turn into years the years decades. What can save a person who surely has no desire to want it?