How Does The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka Existentialism

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One of the greatest mistakes a man can make is allowing his situation to define him, rather than vice versa. In his most famous short story, “The Metamorphosis”, Franz Kafka tells the story of Gregor Samsa, a young businessman who awakes one morning to find himself transformed into a verwandlung, or insect, one of monstrous proportions. Gregor’s quest for resolution highlights the work’s underlying existentialist philosophy. It is, however, his failure to find it that gives the story its depth, and makes it the masterpiece of Western literature that it is. Most stories, even those written by the most renowned of authors, tend to follow one of several plot ‘shapes’. The hero, though he or she may start with varying amounts of good fortune,…show more content…
Throughout his life, Kafka was an avid reader, and for a time was absorbed by the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and founder of existentialist thinking. Kierkegaard, while a believer in God, objected to the Church of Denmark’s paternalistic tendencies, believing that in both life and religion, man had to find meaning as an individual (Kirmmse). This concept, that man begins without purpose and must create one of his own, is clearly reflected in Gregor Samsa in the “The Metamorphosis”. The transformation of Gregor into a giant insect, as absurd a concept it is, never gets the slightest justification in the story. Rather, in line with Kafka’s existentialist philosophy, it is merely another unfortunate, meaningless occurrence that Gregor must suffer through (Reilly…show more content…
In “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor ultimately succumbs to self-inflicted starvation, not out of sacrifice for the sake of his family, but merely at a lack of appetite. His distaste for food, while stupefying in the context of the work, is symbolic of a failure to come to terms with reality. On initial inspection, Gregor’s pains are pointless. Needlessly inflicted, they offer him nothing in terms of compensation. Upon closer examination, nothing becomes clearer, and certain aspects of the plot become even more muddy and convoluted. Confusing as it may seem, this is exactly Kafka’s purpose; the story, just like life perceived by Kafka, has no lesson in the traditional sense (Thorlby 32). The ‘point’ of the story is that it is pointless. Gregor, in order to resolve a situation without any resolutions, would be better off accepting his circumstances and making the best of them, ignoring their moral implications

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