So you’ve finished Metamorphosis. How do you feel – sad? Relieved? Confused? One thing Kafka does not give you is a moral, or even a clear sad or happy ending – Gregor dies, but his family ends up driving away into the sunshine. So how are we even supposed to feel? Kafka doesn’t decide that for us – instead (like Gogol), he conjures up a situation that opens up possibilities. Remember the painting of the fractured woman walking down the stairs? This story also presents a number of perspectives at once.
We talked about Gregor’s struggle between human and animal in Part II. In Part III, it seems like Gregor has mostly accepted being an insect. He lies around getting dirty and stops cleaning himself. When they dump trash in his room he likes crawling through it – though he does get human twinges of shame. He’s very annoyed with his mother for cleaning his room, and even stops wanting to listen to his family at the door. He stops eating and sleeping, and seems to have given up.
Then his family takes in these weird lodgers – did they strike you as strange? They all seem to look alike, with beards, like the band ZZ Top or a trio of Old Testament patriarchs. They are also very judgmental. The family works to please them and hides Gregor, of whom they are very ashamed.
Following the story structure, the chapter culminates in another CRISIS, this time caused by his sister playing the Violin. And here’s the irony – While the (human) Lodgers don’t even like the music, Gregor the insect is so charmed by it he runs into the room to listen! Chaos ensues, the Lodgers are shocked, and Gregor’s sister finally says, “We have to try to get rid of it” (41), calling Gregor IT instead of HIM for the first time. After this, Gregor creeps, by himself, slowly back to his room. He realizes he is tormenting his family, and his last thoughts are of “tenderness and love” (42). He dies. The family soon leave happily for a new life, bathed in sunlight, thinking it is time for his sister to get married.
So in the end, who is truly more human – the “insect” who sacrificed himself for his family, or the family who let him go? Gregor is certainly not the only character who metamorphosizes in this story – his sister Grete becomes more confident, gets a job, and at the end seems like she will have a good life – has she, as a woman, been liberated? Has the family lost something very important when they lost Gregor? Have they been freed of some kind of curse? Are they now rejoining the same system which had so dehumanized Gregor? All the angles are there at once.
This was what I wanted to talk about in class today – Please WRITE a paragraph or two about where the end of this story left you. I’ll put up a CANVAS place for it, or email it to me. It doesn’t have to be too long, since you’re also working on a writing – work on it from 1-1:50, when we would be having class – don’t work on it any longer than that. Send it by Midnight tonight.
THEN LOOK CAREFULLY at the Writing Assignment and see if you have any questions!!! It is also not long -2-3 pages. Due in the Friday-Sunday (Midnight) window.