“The Metamorphosis” and lack there of…

I had heard of Kafka once before, in Prague on a walking tour where there is a statue representing one of his other books in honor of him. I had forgotten the name of Kafka and just remembered the story. Thanks to Juliana and her blog, I have a different spin on this.

I had trouble with this story; the very apparent lack of actual love expressed to Gregor was fairly appalling considering he lived in such misery for his family’s survival disgusted me. At the end, as the family relaxes in the car thinking of how they see their life now that he is dead, they seem more grateful for his death rather than his sacrifice. I say sacrifice because, unlike Gregor’s father who says “what a life. So this is the peace of my old age.”(p.41) Gregor worked hard and never experienced old age. He wished little other than to be free of the bonds to the employer, to have his parents be happy, and to send his sister to the conservatory, but died before any of these happened.
When I put down this book after reading it, the thought that popped to my mind was that “I dislike basically every character in this story” which is a very strange feeling. Sure, I sympathize with Gregor, but my interpretation of this story led to me feeling as if none of them were written in a way to be loved by the reader. Also, the characters feel very stagnant or “static” in their personalities, their own “metamorphosis” is rather subtle and in the case of the father, there is really only a change of character when Kafka describes how he was in the past. I did enjoy the amount of details that were adorned to each character, and the relationships and hierarchies that were developed between them (the three tenants, the manager, the cook, etc.) in contrast to the family. However, it is only through those  “outsiders” that the family is put in any view that would make me consider pitying them. The way they are treated by other’s is harsh, while they try to be courteous if not merely passive.
Connected to this train of thought, I had another thought go through my head as to why the story irked me: it feels as if nothing happens. Gregor has transformed into a dung beetle, but has no reaction to this fact other than the stress of being late for work. Thinking about this perspective now though, a lot does happen within the story, but the characters mentalities rarely change when interacting to one another, creating another element to how the story progresses (or feels as if it doesn’t).

I don’t know. This story plays with my mind and I still feel like I don’t really understand it. Hope you all fared better with it than I have.

Whose Waste Land?

The first time reading through this, I was curious to read all the footnotes (regardless of reading Kevin’s blog just before hand) because I found them interesting in themselves, and at times useful. Let’s just say that I’m really grateful for my English lit 12 class. However, I was considerably confused at some of Eliot’s transitions and connections; he appeared to flit about suddenly and randomly at times, leaving me still questioning the previous section but there was no answer. But I suppose that is poetry for T.S. Eliot.

After the second time reading this though, I enjoyed the feeling of Eliot creating circles of connections in each segment of the poem. There is the overarching theme of showing a barren emotional wasteland in a city that is portrayed as being magnificent. England and London are usually portrayed in two lights: the established, dignified and what-is-thought-to-bring-you-happiness (wealth, security, companionship), and then the poor, dirty, primitive, “slums” of British society.  I find connecting strangers through their individual stories that all share a common aspect intriguing. Here, I read the poem as connecting all of the different stories, books, plays, etc. that Eliot was alluding to, along with stories that were existing in the everyday life around him. I did find it interesting that a fair amount of the poem was centered around the everyday objects found in both elements of British society, along with women. While he takes time and words to describe innate objects such as a chair “held up by standards”(line 79), he shows intimate moments of women’s lives in brief but descriptive depictions. Why is this important? I don’t know, but it is interesting to see the woman who is “hardly aware of her departed lover; allows one half-formed thought to pass: “Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.” (lines 251-2) Here a circle is formed: she is stuck in winter. Winter being a place where things can be forgotten and left behind; a mentality that allows for people to be in a situation they don’t want to be in, and survive.  Neither her, nor the “lover”, nor the society that Eliot sees around him, is really living if they are in a place of forgetting what happened in the past, along with everyday life.

So, those are some thoughts from before the seminar today. Can’t say that I really see humor in this poem just yet, but thanks for a new idea of how to look at this, Jon.