The Metamorphosis Review
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Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman and his family’s sole provider, wakes one morning to find that, overnight, he has turned into a hideous, beetle-like insect. This is the premise that starts one of the most compelling literary masterpieces of all time. The Metamorphosis takes a deep look into Kafka’s symbolically-ripe imagination and probes the themes of alienation, chronic disability, father-son conflict, and the extent to which human relationships rely on outward appearances.

In the beginning of the story, Samsa concerns himself with the day-to-day difficulties of his predicament (getting off his back, the use of superfluous limbs, accepting the change in his physical appearance), but as the story progresses, deeper problems surface.

Samsa is completely isolated by his family, locked away in his room, with no visitors, except for his sister, Grete, who diligently (although reluctantly), sets out his food each day. When Samsa breaks out of his room one day, he travels to the living room where he’s ultimately assaulted by his own father, who throws an apple at him, which becomes lodged in the grotesque-creature’s back and ultimately leads to Samsa’s demise.

The conflict between father and son is just one of the themes explored in this intriguing text. In Samsa, Kafka has created the ultimate symbol of alienation, a person who is not only unfamiliar to outward society, but also foreign to himself, due to the immediateness with which his change occurs. The story is also a rare example in character development, since most of Samsa’s changes occur prior to the beginning of the story itself. Rather than developing out of force-of-will, as most characters of fiction do, Samsa is forced to change internally due to the changes that have already occurred externally at the onset of the plot. In short, he has no choice but to adapt.

I really enjoyed reading this story, although I must admit that, as the plot progressed, reading became increasingly uncomfortable because of the feelings aroused by the bleakness of the subject matter. Kafka is able to take an absurd concept and build a convincing reality around it, so that, in the end, the entire message is both believable (although not in technical concept, a concept that’s never explained) and well defined. One of the best aspects of The Metamorphosis is in its ability to awaken nostalgic feelings of isolation in the reader, who, while never having actually transformed physically as Samsa does, is still able to relate to the situation because the focus is on the feelings experienced and not on the physical specifics of the plot.

This may be one of the most important works of fiction ever conceived (an impressive feat considering the “book” is little more than sixty pages in length), and I recommend it to anyone with serious literary ambitions.

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