I was always told The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka was something scary, incomprehensible, and solemn; and I believed those estimates. Now I am baffled. What I read was solemn, yes, but scary and incomprehensible, maybe not, and solemn only to the extent of how satires are. Have I been gravely mistaken what this book is all about? Why does it seem like a ludicrous play by morphing our character into a bug to deliver criticism towards the duties of sons and breadwinners? Not to mention the mockery of the complexity of family affairs? Okay, maybe not complexity, more mockery of the commands we put on each other to get our selfish wants performed. A family that can’t love the goose when the cost of laying the golden eggs is shown and the ugly nature is revealed. A monster to be confined, hated, and feared. To add on, Kafka stresses the transformative power to man’s nature through the demands of work-life accompanied managers’ hysteria and restricted views about behavior and worth. It is no wonder our protagonist turns into a repulsive bug.
Yes, this book is sorrowful, and there is no happy ending, not for our protagonist. There is only a happy ending for the greedy family while showing their ignorance and happiness. It points out that the transformation because of the monotonous work, constant need to perform without appreciation or return, and no life to call one’s own amounting into a bug was unnecessary at the beginning with. So pointless. A moral story, a satire, but not horror. Not for me. Okay, we could argue that others’ hellish demands and the necessity to perform continuously is a horror too familiar to all of us. Most of us have our inner selves stripped down, and our worth measured in money. Why is that so? For an extra pampering as Kafka points out? Because of others and their thoughts on how we should live our lives? Because of realities?
Kafka delivers a grim satire, welcoming us to laugh at the silliness of the human destinies. Here we are, still down the same path, morphing ourselves to meet the world’s demands and loved ones’, losing ourselves and becoming this ugly creature we have to endure looking back at us every day from the mirror. I laugh, but not from freedom, from sadness. There might be tears. How not to become a bug? Or have I misunderstood this book?
To add, I could always criticize Kafka for delivering this restricted statement of family obligations and care. They are never as one sided as we want to believe, even in our own life. Not that our bug protagonist complained. He was willing to do everything to provide for his family, especially his sister. He was sacrificed to let her flourish. But is that sacrifice necessary? Is there a medium between those two states where one doesn’t have to render their nature for other’s lives to be fulfilled?
Thank you for reading and be bug-free ❤
P.S. Franz Kafka also asks “What if you are no longer able-bodied? What if you lose your limp and can’t go back to work? Are you then worthless? Useless mouth to feed? A bug? All this in the short story of his with full of life and meaning.