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.