Kafka's Metamorphosis - Perceptions Exposed

I think Franz Kafka is a beautiful and insightful writer with whom I am just being introduced.  I love the way he is able to describe the un-approached aspects of routine daily living as one who is a keen observer of the unspoken realities of life.

"'What if I went back to sleep for a while and forgot all this foolishness, 'he thought. However, this was totally impracticable, as he habitually slept on his right side, a position he could not get into in his present state;..." 

 "The door could not be heard closing; they must have left it open as is usual in houses visited by great misfortune." 

In the first chapter of Metamorphosis, Kafka transforms the external appearance, the body of a man named Gregor to match with his internal sense of other's perceptions of himself.   His body begins to feel and express itself much like his internal sense of well-being.  As one who regularly struggles to wake up in the morning, I identify with his description of his battle to get out of bed and his befuddled self-awareness of his "limbs." Yet, I also recognize that his physical struggle is a practical symbolic representation of an acute struggle with his daily work, a struggle that is fought by so many who feel imprisoned by their jobs.

"Why was Gregor condemned to serve at a firm where the smallest infraction was seized upon with the gravest suspicion; was each and every employee a soundrel; was there no loyal and dedicated man serving them who, having spent several hours of the morning not devoted to the firm, might become so overcome by pangs of remorse as to be actually unable to get out of bed?"

I found particularly insightful the following comments in light of Gregor's physical transformation:

"You know very well that a traveling salesman, out of the office for almost the entire year, can easily fall prey to gossip, coincidences, and unfounded grievances against which he cannot possibly defend himself because he almost never hears about them except when returning home from an exhausting trip; he personally suffers the grim consequences, the causes of which he can no longer determine."

Here we get a hint of how he perceives other's perceptions of himself to have been changed as a result of his work. Work which he is committed to do on their behalf, in order to free them of their debt.  Gregor is an unrecognized saint, rumored to be a sinner.

His perspective on the situation is revealed earlier in the chapter through the words of his mother:

"All that the boy thinks about is work.  It almost makes me mad the way he never goes out in the evening; he's been in the city eight days now, but he's been at home every night.  He sits with us at the table quietly reading the paper or studying train schedules.  His only amusement is busying himself with his fretsaw....he's so stubborn and he's certainly not well enough even though he denied it this morning."

I appreciate how Kafka uses the imagination to address the unconscious reality of society.  He weaves a story that highlights the places for uninhibited grace that are ignored in our grasp for the concrete, however ludicrous it may be.  He appreciates the inner thought of the human being and in many ways seems to buy into Reinhold Niehbur's "Moral man and immoral society."

And then to add a bit of Eastern European humor to his story, Kafka monologues text for Gregor, as the appeasing employee trying to say just the right words to temper his boss's wrath and all it sounds like to the boss's liaison is a muffled grumbling mess.

"Where are you going, sir?  To the office?  Yes?  Will you report on everything truthfully? A man can suddenly be inescapable of working, but this is the precise moment to remember his past performance and to consider that later, after resolving the difficulties, he would work all the harder and more diligently.  I am so deeply obligated to the Chief, as you well know. And besides, I am responsible for my parents and sister. I am in a tough bind but I'll work myself back out of it. Please do not make it more difficult than it already is.  I beg you to speak up for me in the office! No one likes traveling salesmen, I know. They think we make a slew of money and lead charmed lives. There's no particular reason for them to further examine the prejudice. But you, sir, you have a better perspective than the rest of the office, an even better perspective, in all confidence, then the Chief himself,..."

I have not read an analysis of Kafka's famed work "Metamorphosis," nor have I read the entire work, just the first chapter.  I want to hear his writing for myself.  I understand that many say Kafka is a good writer, but they aren't able to articulate why. So, I'm trying my own attempt at explaining why I am falling in love with his work. I kind of wonder if my Czech heritage and Czech sense of humor helps me to hear Kafka in a way that is different than how others hear him.  I hear a silent chuckle in the darkest parts of his word and I hear a man who is trying to help the world to see reality and how they are contributing to the mess of it all, while maintaining their own sense of dignity in their inner thoughts.  I haven't yet figured out if he is a religious man, a person who mocks religion, or indifferent. I suspect he is not indifferent, as he is highly sensitive and thinks deeply.  Perhaps that is the other reason I like him, because I identify with him as a highly sensitive deep thinking person myself.



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