The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had no idea what this was going to be like going into it other than a guy turns into a huge bug. Having listened to this on my own and not looked at any discussion about it, I can only guess at what to make of it! A few things that stuck out:
1) It was hilarious/depressing how much Gregor thought about his job and Mr. Manager in the first chapter, when clearly there were much bigger things to worry about! This emphasis, and that of the fact that Mr. Manager (who is never named) actually showed up at his apartment because he missed the morning train spoke to me of the love affair our culture continues to have for hard work and productivity. We chain ourselves to our work, and when truly awful or life changing events come up it can take some radical rattling of our senses to wake us up to the reality we've been missing in our obsessing over time cards and fiscal responsibilities.
2) The change that came over the family after Gregor's death was unsettling, but pointed me towards some possible thematic understanding. Perhaps Gregor's presence in providing for the family presented a learned helplessness in them? His will to serve and be the hero turned out to be the very best reason for his metamorphosis and eventual dismissal from the family group. How often do our heroes and leaders turn out to be the giant stinking bug that is actually holding us back from a more productive, happy life?
3) Greta, Gregor's sister was a character I really can't figure out. At first she seems to be the most sensible and perceptive, but later she almost takes a 180. Did I miss something? Or maybe that is indicative of something deeper? Perhaps there is a strong irony Kafka is going for in that Gregor loved her the most and wanted to help her more than anyone, and she was the one that ultimately wished for his removal. Much like the stinking apple lodged in his side, Gregor's attachment to his sister became the death of him rather than the nutrients he really needed.
4) Communication or the lack thereof played a big part in this story. Gregor's communication with his own new body, with his family, and in some senses with himself are all clouded and distorted. By the end he can't even signify to his family that he is Gregor, and perhaps it could be argued that he isn't!
This strange, funny, and interesting book gave me some ideas to chew on. I listened to it on Librivox and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
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I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.