07 April 2010

The Metamorphosis

I am sure we've all had one of those mornings where nothing worked out right: Your alarm doesn't go off, your car won't start, and your breakfast ends up on your only clean outfit. (Please tell me it's not just me with the crazy mornings!) Well, as crappy as all of our days can be on occasion, we can at least take solace in the fact that we've never awakened to discover that we've turned into a gigantic beetle overnight (or at least I hope we can take solace in this), which is exactly what happens to Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of Franz Kafka's eerie classic The Metamorphosis.

I adore Kafka's work, especially his short stories, and this novella is one of my favorites. As a reader, his recurring theme of alienation has always struck a chord with me; as a writer, his superb craftsmanship has always been an inspiration to me. I also find his personal story one of literature's most quietly tragic (Poor lonely Franz...), but that's a story for another post. I love the way Kafka combines mundane reality with out-of-this world fantasy, which is certainly showcased in The Metamorphosis. One of the main reasons I love this story is that Kafka never explains why Gregor is turned into a bug. I think that would have ruined this story, because, really, the fact that he is a bug is one of the least of his problems, though it does complicate things. Kafka, instead, focuses his attention on the fall-out from Gregor's change, and the result is a tragic, absurd, disturbing allegory, though exactly what Kafka is allegorizing is fodder for endless debate.

Gregor is a somewhat pathetic character that I can't help pitying, but his dysfunctional family and their reactions to his state are also key components of this story--ones that are both amusing and heartbreaking. Their vain attempts to cope with Gregor's transformation forms a vital crux of this novel, particularly the ever-present alienation theme. The tragicomic interactions between Gregor and his relatives, and the world around him in general, are the highlight of this story, precisely because they ring true. I also love the surreal atmosphere that Kafka creates with his droll, meticulous style. This novella amuses me, saddens me, and creeps me out all at once. I never can read it without getting that creepy-crawly feeling I get when a bug crawls on me. (I have to read this several times this week for lit. to prepare for quizzes. This is making my homework sessions memorable...)

Though I love this story, I will admit: It's weird. It may be a bit too weird for everyone's personal taste. (I once read a comment on Sparklife that said certain things just should not be thought up. And Kafka's The Metamorphosis was one of them.) I disagree with the aforementioned sentiment--obviously. I love the originality of Kafka and think the uniqueness of his work is the point. But I can't deny that his work, and this story in particular, won't freak you out.

I highly recommend Kafka's The Metamorphosis, if only because the premise is so innovative and the execution of it is so masterful. Kafka is one of the premier voices in modernist literature...and for good reason. If you've never read Kafka before, this thirty page novella is the perfect introduction.


Next Week: Not sure. My schedule is going to get crazy. Maybe a review. Maybe a list. We'll see. If it is a list, it will probably be a list of the books I'd want with me if I were shipwrecked.

However, as busy as I will be, you can catch up with me at my second blog: Grammatically Motivated. I have been meaning to start a second blog, to post non-book related articles, but haven't had time. My faulty logic is that now that I am going to have limited time, it may be easier to write articles that don't require me to read ahead of time. Tis the theory, anyway...

Also, I am thinking about ending "The Unblogged Chronicles". I have been disappointed with this series. I think they're too long without being in-depth enough and lack a unifying theme. Therefore, I am considering halting that series. Any thoughts? Want me to kill the "Chronicles" or do you request mercy?

Don't forget: I can pester you on Twitter now. :D 


  1. I love magical realism! And I've wanted to read this for a long time. Maybe I should try and read it today...

    Thanks, Zella!

    I like the Unblogged Chronicles, but mostly when you rant. :D So maybe you could rename them as "The Mini Rant Chronicles." :D

  2. Read it, Scott! Read it! If you read it, I will rant. ^^

    Just kidding. *cough* Yeah, I am not so sure. I just noticed a huge drop-off in comments on them and I was not very pleased with them myself. I think I am better off writing full length reviews and ranting when appropriate. (You and your obsession with rants... :D) Would that work or do you still think the Chronicles are worth salvaging? I still am undecided.

    Thanks, Scott! Do let me know what you think of my boy Kafka. He is one of my favorites and I have a feeling you'll like him.

  3. Hey Zella, We studied this when I was a Senior in High School and I had to write a paper on it. It's trancendentalism, I think. It was one of the few stories of this kind that I enjoyed. And I got a good grade on the paper, too.

  4. CL, I'm so glad you enjoyed the story...and made a good grade on the paper. :) (That always makes a difference. I am not sure if we get to write about it or not.) It is definitely one of my favorites, but I can also see why some people are turned off with this type of material.

    Thanks so much for commenting! :)


  5. *adds this to reading list as well*
    I always have mornings like that, today was one of those in fact. xD
    And I just realized you have twitter updates. :D Cool!

  6. Glad it intrigued you, Feathers! Tell me what you think after you read it. :)

    I think these mornings are epidemic. I had a crazy one myself that involved evil shoes. At least we are not gigantic bugs, though... ^^

    Yeah, I added Twitter updates last week. Hope you enjoy them! :)

    Thanks so much for commenting! :)

  7. Hi Zella! (I found you via your sparklife profile and have been reading your blog for a while. Then I realized I might as well just follow you :P)
    I like the unblogged chronicles! They might not be as cohesive as your regular reviews, but I enjoy reading them. It exposes me to a lot of different books and lets me compare them and the way you review them. I don't think they need a unifying theme, but if you are distraught because of their lack thereof, you could always give them a theme. Maybe keep a list of unblogged books and one chronicle could cover the books by british authors, or the novels set during the Elizabethan Era, or all the books of one genre, or even all of the books that have one word titles. Just an idea :)

  8. Serena, thanks so much for following and commenting! :)

    I really like your suggestion about doing the themed ones. That would make me feel better and it would lead to shorter posts, as well. I may play around with "The Unblogged Chronicles" a little more, but I think I am going to try to do more theme-oriented ones, as you suggested. Thanks so much for the great suggestion! :)