The Metamorphosis is a short novella by Franz Kafka, published in 1915. Maybe one of his lesser known works, in comparison to novels like The Trial and Amerika, it’s considered one of the most important works of fiction in literature of the 20th century.
I read this not so long ago and have tried and succeeded in not reading any reviews/explanations/discussions about it before writing this post. That is mostly because I want what I express about the book to be my own ideas and not be influenced by outside sources. I’m truly curious if you would define my interpretation of this book as correct.
Of course, I believe that a written text, a book is open to a multitude of interpretations and it’s all about perception.
With that being said, I think the key to understanding this really odd novella is the title, metamorphosis.met·a·mor·pho·sis: 1. A transformation, as by magic or sorcery. 2. Biology A change in the form and often habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage. Metamorphosis includes, in insects, the transformation of a maggot into an adult fly and a caterpillar into a butterfly and, in amphibians, the changing of a tadpole into a frog.
The first definition is in direct connection to what happens to the main character. A fairly succesful traveling salesman by the name of Gregor Samsa, wakes up on day and realizes he’s been transformed into a giant insect. We never get any explanation as to how or why it happened, just an account of what follows and how his family treats him. Apparently unable to understand him, though he could still understand them, his parents and his sister take care of him for a time, while at the end deserting him to his death.
To understand this book better you have to look as Samsa as one character and his family as the other character. While one goes from a normal human being with a job ( a job on which the whole family relied) to turning into a huge insect and eventually dying, his family goes through an equally important transformation or metamorphosis, if you will.
From being hopeless and needy and dependent on Gregor and his job, they feel an immense sense of relief when he dies, but they have hope and plans again and means of sustaining the family without the help of Gregor anymore.
That is where the second definition of the word metamorphosis fits, I believe. It’s like watching the short life of a butterfly for each character, only starting in different life stages. The family blossoms at the end, turning into the butterfly, while Samsa starts there and in the end dies. This is not to say that the insect he finds himself transformed into is a butterfly, it’s just a metaphor.
Anyway, this is just how I interpret and understand the book. Other thoughts and opinions are more than welcome 🙂