Saturday, September 02, 2017

Book Review - The Metamorphosis

Having just finished reading The Metamorphosis, I feel like this is the kind of book that is probably best appreciated by reading a companion essay of some sort or at least studying some of the history of Kafka and his life and times.

For those who aren't familiar with the novella, this book is the story of Gregor, a young traveling salesman (who lives at home with his parents and sister) that wakes up one morning with the strange realization that he has transformed into a large beetle/cockroach insect. The book explores his personal realization of the change as well as the reactions of his family members and the events that follow.

In the early 20th century, this sort of story was probably shocking in its own way and more so than it is in the 21st century. However, as with a lot of "classics" in Literature, the meat of the book is not skin deep but rather lies in the theme and underlying messages that can come from critical analysis and insight.

Without knowing much about the social and political leanings of Kafka, I can't ponder officially on what he might be saying about the lower middle-class standing of Gregor and his family or their financial and social struggles. I felt like there may have been some sort of distinct social commentary going on about the working and financial conditions but I don't know.

What I did see was a theme of rejection and identity. Gregor, through no presumable fault of his own undergoes a change that leaves him confused and shunned by society and even by his own family. He struggles to make sense of the change but becomes more and more despondent as the disgust and rejection around him grows.

Kafka might be making a commentary on the treatment of many people based on who they are in ways they have no control over. Everyone has differences, some more different than other. This book seems to be portraying the ugly reality of disgust and alienation that sometimes happens when people/society discover the difference of another.

Overall I don't know exactly what the author was trying to say or what the reception was at the time of writing. To me, this book was an odd little story about a man struggling with his own identity and finding no validation or help from those around him. A sad tale, but one that we can hopefully learn from as we look to those around us.

3 out of 5 stars

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