March 04, 2021

#08-054: The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka

Note: The work of the German-speaking Austro-Hungarian novelist and short-story writer Franz Kafka blends elements of realism and fantasy. Perhaps no clearer example can be found than the experience of a man who, without explanation, woke up one day as a giant insect.

Get Ready: What would you do if you woke up one day to discover you were a giant bug (or some other animal)?

Perhaps the best-known of Kafka's works is his creepy novella, The Metamorphosis. In it a salesman, Gregor Samsa, awakes one morning in the home he shares with his parents and sister and discovers that he has turned into an insect. The type is unclear--the German reads a "monstrous vermin"--but it's generally called a giant cockroach.

The consequences of this transformation, along with the never-answered mystery of how it took place, and the question of how the protagonist can extricate himself from his predicament, push the story forward.

At first Gregor cannot even leave his bed, let alone his room, so he tries to communicate through the door with his family--and his office manager, who has come to his home to investigate his unexplained absence from work--but all they can hear are the inarticulate vocalizations of--well--a bug!

Finally Gregor leaves his bed and drags himself to the door. When he opens it, the terrified manager flees from the flat, and Gregor's father drives him back into his room.

Gregor, the family's sole breadwinner, is now out of work. His sister finds him repulsive, but takes up the responsibility of feeding him--another source of disgust, as he will only eat food that is rotten. Because Gregor seems to enjoy crawling about on the walls and ceiling of his room, Grete (his sister) begins to remove some of the furniture. Gregor finds this distressing, especially when they try to remove the portrait of a woman. In another altercation, he is wounded by an apple thrown by his father.

The family takes in lodgers to make up for the loss of Gregor's income, and one evening as his sister plays the violin, he crawls out to listen. When the tenants see him, they complain that the flat must be filthy to house such a creature, and move out. Grete then encourages the parents to get rid of "it," and Gregor, who has stopped eating, dies of starvation.

The family members go on with their lives, planning to find Grete a husband, as though Gregor had never lived at all.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. extricate
  2. filthy
  3. inarticulate
  4. metamorphosis
  5. predicament
  6. repulsive
  7. sole
  8. starvation
  9. vermin
  10. vocalizations

  1. extremely dirty
  2. extreme hunger
  3. get oneself out of
  4. a difficult situation
  5. only; lone
  6. sounds made by the voice
  7. disgusting
  8. not properly expressed; unable to be understood
  9. a change from one form to another; transformation
  10. (usually) small animals that infest a human living space

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 4, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. a; 3. h; 4. i; 5. d; 6. g; 7. e; 8. b; 9. j; 10. f