Friday, December 11, 2009

The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world; Elias Canetti described it as "one of the few great and perfect works of the poetic imagination written during this century".

The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, awakes one morning in his family's apartment to find himself inexplicably transformed overnight into a gigantic pest. Gregor does not immediately recoil from his insect form, but instead chooses to lament his job by saying, "How am I going to get to work?" and the general misery of the rainy weather outside.

Horrified by his appearance, Gregor's family shuts Gregor into his room, but Grete, his sister, tries to care for him by providing him with food and water. In his new form, he rejects his erstwhile favourite food (milk and bread), preferring stale, rotten food, but later loses his appetite completely. One day, when Gregor emerges from his room, his father chases him around the dining room table and pelts him with apples. One of the apples becomes embedded in his back, causing an infection.

Eventually, Grete's rejection of Gregor becomes total when she says to the family, "We must try to get rid of it. We've done everything humanly possible to take care of it and to put up with it, no one can reproach us in the slightest."

The sister then determines with finality that the insect is no longer Gregor, since Gregor would have left them out of love and taken their burden away. Gregor collapses, finally succumbing to his wound and to his starvation.

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