Saturday, March 4, 2017

Review: The Metamorphosis

Book: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Prompt: Read a book with a great first line
Pages: 59

So, since we're talking about great first lines, here's the first line of The Metamorphosis
As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
Great first line, right?  It even made it onto my "First Lines of Literature" mug that I found at Goodwill (available at Amazon and from The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild).

The Metamorphosis tells the story of Gregor Samsa who, as the first line indicates, is transformed overnight into a giant beetle of some sort.  As the story continues, Gregor, his parents, and his sister, struggle to come to terms with his insect-ness, to varying degrees of success.  Gregor is transformed from an independent and dependable young man into a (relatively) helpless and needy insect shunned from the rest of the world.

Many of Kafka's works focus on the nature of human existence and isolationism, and The Metamorphosis is definitely one of those.  Gregor's metamorphosis exposes his status as a loner, but it also underlines the fact that, to quote the old adage, "no man is an island."  We all need each other - whether for what they can do for us and we for them, or for the companionship we find with them that we can't really replace with anything else.  As Gregor's insect-ness continues, he finds himself more and more isolated and subsequently, his grip on his human-ness begins to lessen.  In short, as Gregor becomes more and more isolated, he becomes less human.

The Metamorphosis is definitely a short story that makes you think.  Yes, it is absurdist, but it is still poignant in its portrayal of isolation and human companionship.  I'm not a huge fan of absurdist literature - I prefer more concrete and realistic literature - but I still enjoyed The Metamorphosis.  As the dust jacket on my (Barnes & Noble Classics hardcover) copy says, "Readers will find aspects of this tale that unfailingly strike home, although each will readily admit that he or she has never, exactly, been in Gregor's shoes."  And I found that to be true.  While I have never been transformed into a giant insect (who among us has, though?), I could relate to Gregor's loneliness and isolationism.

I think this is especially true of introverts.  It's easy for introverts to minimize their need for other people, especially because people are difficult for them.  But introverts like myself need to remember that we can't live our lives in isolation or we'll end up (metaphorically) like Gregor.

Final recommendation: Read it!  It's less than 100 pages, and is totally unique.  What do you have to lose?

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