Interpretation Of Kafka's Metamorphosis. Modern Fiction, Rhodes University Essay

2082 words - 9 pages

Question: Which aspects of Kafka’s Metamorphosis produce such diverse interpretations of the novella? Refer to specific interpretations and/or literary genres in your discussion.
Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis revolves around Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, who, without any prior exposition, has transformed into a monstrous vermin. In the story Gregor and his family attempt to adjust to the new state they find themselves in. The purpose of this essay is to explore which aspects of this story produce diverse interpretations. The interpretations which are brought to the fore are those of a modernist, post-modernist, magic realist and biographical approach; the latter two are discussed in tandem. To explore this question references to Metamorphosis made are based on the version translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Although Kafka died before the widespread use of the concept of postmodernism, and although he is often described as a modernist writer, this essay attempts to argue that his writing presents elements of both and that this is evident in The Metamorphosis. The concept of modernism is said to revolve around a deliberate and radical break from traditional Western art and literature (Abrams, 167). What categorises modernism as a literary genre is its subversion of literary conventions often by use of stream of consciousness technique (Abrams, 167). Postmodernism serves as a continuation of counter-tradition introduced by modernism however it draws inspiration from the impact WW2 had on the human psyche (Abrams, 168). A prevailing aspect of post modernism is literature of the absurd (Abrams, 168). Elements in the metamorphosis which may render this type of interpretation valid are the unreliability of the narrator, the description of time as well as the entire story basically revolving around an instance of absurdity-Gregor’s metamorphosis.
Stream of consciousness refers to the narrative method where devotion is given to the character’s unbroken conscious and unconscious perceptions, thoughts and feelings, where the narrator accounts for every detail experienced by the character (Abrams, 167). In Metamorphosis this method of narration is brought to us through the narrator in terms of how time is relayed, how the narrator does not maintain an objective stance, as well as the uncertainty expressed by the narrator. With these in mind one may come to the conclusion that the narrator is in fact both omniscient and narrating from Gregor’s point of view.
The narrator does not remain objective and distant throughout; there are instances in the story where it is possible to imagine that the narrator is perhaps Gregor himself. As Gregor decides what train to take in order to make it to work the narrator explains to the reader that an errand boy may have already told the director of his absence. In introducing the errand boy the narrator does not give an objective introduction of the boy but rather describes him as “spineless and mindless” (pg. 120),...

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