“I am separated from all things by a hollow space, and I do not even reach to its boundaries.” -- Kafka, 1911
ALIENATION DOUBLE MINORITY STATUS Non-religious Jew –Jews comprised 5% of the Prague population German was Kafka’s family’s first language –Only 6% of the population of Prague spoke German –Kafka spoke both German and Czech
Had a tyrannical, authoritative father Mother was submissive Had three sisters (later died in concentration camps) Forced to take an office job for an insurance company Lived with his parents throughout most of his life Died of tuberculosis at age 40
MODERNISM: 1915 – 1945 TIME OF SOCIAL BREAKDOWN AND REEVALUATION FRAGMENTED WORLD FEELING OF DETACHMENT DISTRUST OF THE PAST SEARCH FOR MEANING IN MEANINGLESS WORLD DEHUMANIZATION FEAR, ANGST, DESPERATION
Munch: Evening on Karl Johan EXPRESSIONISM – distorts reality through exaggeration, visible brushwork, and strong color; expresses innermost feelings rather than external reality.
Max Beckmann’s Family Picture appeared on the cover of the Bantam edition of the novella
Central figure – Gregor – endowed with pathos and surrounded by heartless characters, figures of horror. “Central absurd character belongs to the absurd world around him but, pathetically, and tragically, attempts to struggle out of it into the world of humans.”
Because of its ambiguous and enigmatic nature, The Metamorphosis has been interpreted in many ways. Here are just a few: A Freudian interpretation blames an Oedipal complex for the father-son hostilities A Marxist would blame Gregor’s death on the demands of his family’s materialistic, bourgeois lifestyle “Rhizomatic” theory sees Gregor’s transformation as a “line of flight” or “becoming-other” – an escape from systematic, patterned, “territorialized” existence.
How do diction, syntax, point-of-view, and other literary elements work together to develop the meaning of the work?
–3 rd person point of view –Present tense - immediacy –Lack of sentimentality –Ironic precision with no authorial intrusion –Simple, not complex, syntax –Uncomplicated characterizations –Linear development of plot Narration
STRAIGHT-FORWARD STYLE: is in contrast with the nightmarish tale itself Creates irony Adds to bizarre HUMOR Makes absurd world the real world
The Metamorphosis explores issues such as: Alienation and Dehumanization in modern society Guilt/shame in the family The absurdity of human existence Escapism/freedom from this meaningless and grotesque existence The search for identity and meaning in an arbitrary and indifferent universe
When the first edition of the story appeared with an illustration, Kafka was infuriated: “Not that, anything but that! The insect itself cannot be depicted. It mustn’t even be shown from a distance.” Why didn’t he want readers to see the insect?