Throughout the semester two readings “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka both share valuable similarities. As each story has different main characters, each character goes through the same development of themselves, which they transform into something they cannot control or take grasps at it. These two stories have different pathways for their main characters but the theme of each character have various similarities as they somewhat connect and interchange within each other that gives them true identity of manhood. As this paper will explain the interpretation of masculinity and how it intertwines with the disconnection between mind and body.
In the story of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, it starts off with a warrior named Okonkwo, who is wealthy and well respected in the Umuofia Clan[endnoteRef:1]. The Umuofia Clan is a lower Nigerian tribe which is combined with nine other villages. Okonkwo is haunted by the actions of Unoka, his cowardly and spendthrift father, who died in disrepute, leaving many village debts unsettled. Therefore, Okonkwo becomes a clansman, warrior, farmer, and family provider extraordinaire. Okonkwo also has a twelve year old son named Nwoye whom he finds lazy; Okonkwo worries that his son Nwoye will end up a failure like his grandfather Unoka. In Okonkwo’s youth, be brought honor to his village by beating Amalinze the Cat in a wrestling match. Until Okonkwo’s match with the Cat, Cat had been unbeatable for seven consecutive years and with Okonkwo completely not being like his father who was a hemophobia[endnoteRef:2], was ready to meet his match. [1: ] [2: ]
Now, as Okonkwo fights Amalinze the Cat at a young age, it begins to demonstrate how Okonkwo’s manhood and masculinity starts to develop. Okonkwo is already not afraid of blood like his father so that gives him an advantage in his wrestling match against the Cat. At Okonkwo’s age of eighteen and defeating a seven streak wrestling champ, that defeat brings him a lot of fame and leads a way to shake off his fathers’ shameful association, as well as the time to prove his-self to the village. This Fight concentrates on the thoughts of Okonkwo’s masculinity and how Okonkwo feels that this fight will determine his manhood. Just by Okonkwo’s age in defeating the Cat itself, makes his masculinity because he was the youngest to ever beat a champ. Therefore, winning his “first fight” was like his “gateway” into masculinity of his manhood.
In the story of “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, it begins with a salesman named Gregor Samsa who wakes up in his bed to find himself transformed into a large insect. AS Gregor looks around his room; that appears to be normal, he decides to go back to sleep to forget about what has happened. He attempts to roll over, only to find out that he cannot because of his new body (large insect). As he lays on his back, he tries to scratch an itch on his stomach but he ends up touching one if his many nee legs which he is now disgusted by. Gregor reflects on how depressing his life is as a travel salesman and how he would quit if his family did not depend on him and his income so much and that maybe he could have made some long lasting friendships.
As Gregor suddenly realizes that he has overslept and does not have a good excuse to tell his boss on why he was late, his mother comes and reminds him about catching the train. Meanwhile, Gregor responds back but notices that his voice has changed and he is struggling to get out of bed still. Then the doorbell rings and it is his office manager there to check up on him. As Gregor hears his office manager in the house, he tumbles violently onto the floor, causing everyone to come rushing to the door to see if he is okay. Directly in the beginning of this story, Gregors’ discovery of himself becoming a giant insect sets the tone for the disconnection between his mind and body as it transform him in a sober straightforward manner. Gregor embodies this craziness tone from the beginning when he is transformed but does not appear to be bothered by it while treating this change to be a disturbance of his sleep.
In the beginning of both these stories, Okonkwo and Gregor witness transformation early out in their stories. Even though they experience different obstacles of their transformation they both do realize a difference within themselves. The interpretation of masculinity and the disconnection between mind and body are reversed and then altered to fit both Okonkwo and Gregor, whereas in the interpretation of masculinity Gregor loses his masculinity by turning into a large insect and for the disconnection between mind and body, Okonkwo uses his body to defeat Cat while his body allows him to used his mind to determine his masculinity. The way these themes are altered are by how Gregor loses his masculinity but does not really care too much about it, the only thing he is concerned about is losing his job, his physical comfort, and his family’s financial situation. Opposed to Okonkwo having the mind and body to defeat Cat to claim his masculinity, all his concern was to please the people of the village to have his father’s debt taken away.
In Chapter Four of “Things Fall Apart” Okonkwo takes in a foster son named Ikemefuna who is homesick and scared but after a while Nwoye’s (Okonkwo bio-son) mother takes care of Ikemefuna. Ikemefuna then becomes popular with all Okonkwo’s children who Ikemefuna tells the children stories and shows them his many impressive skills such as: making flutes out of bamboo, and setting up traps for bush rodents. Also, Ikemefuna begins to be like a big brother towards Nwoye which Okonkwo begins to grow quite fond of him but never shows it because he thinks it is a sign of weakness. Meanwhile during the Peace Week[endnoteRef:3] of the village, Okonkwo violates Peace Week by beating on his youngest wife Ojiugo who forgets to makes dinner before going to get her hair braided. Since Okonkwo’s violation, he now has to serve a fine handed to him by the Priest; to sacrifice a nanny goat and hen, pay a fine of one length of cloth, and one-hundred cowries (shells used as currency) then, Okonkwo repents for his sins and follows his orders from the Priest. [3: ]
In this chapter, the notice of Okonkwo’s masculinity here, develops to become a little challenging as well as being a little older in this chapter also. But Okonkwo’s masculinity gets challenging here because as his children, especially Nwoye, gain a bond with Ikemefuna, Okonkwo starts to see a lot of himself in Ikemefuna which causes him not to show any care towards him because it shows a sign of weakness. This so called ‘sign of weakness’ to show any emotion towards someone causes a masculinity breakage. Emotions can be a part of masculinity but Okonkwo refuses to use his emotions which questions his true manhood as to who and what others may see and think of him. Okonkwo believes that his masculinity is based upon showing no emotion which makes him a man in his eyes because showing any type of emotion is a sign of weakness not only in his masculinity but also in himself. Another challenge to Okonkwo’s masculinity is because he somewhat abuses his manhood as he forgets about Peace Week and beats his youngest wife. As a man and with Okonkwo’s wealth, fame, and respect, it lowers his masculinity by forgetting Peace Week and it is uncommon to abuse his significant manhood therefore, allowing Okonkwo to seem and think that his fame, wealth, and respect overweighs his masculinity. Soon as Okonkwo realizes what he has done and his wrong doing and that his masculinity does not exclude him, he repents his sins and follows the Priests orders which now starts to show the rebuilding of his masculinity.
In the story of “The Metamorphosis” after Gregor reveals himself to his family and office manager, they see how he has changed and transformed into a giant insect and are very alarmed and astonished. Gregor slowly adapts to his new life and starts to enjoy himself by scampering around in his room and by climbing on a chair to see out of his window. During Gregor’s circumstances, his sister Grete looks after him bust cannot stand to look at him or the site of him period, so Gregor decides to hide behind a sheet draper to make it easier for Grete. Grete would make sure that Gregor would eat then pick up his scraps to show them to their mother and father so that they can see Gregor’s process. Gregor’s Sister Grete eventually sees that Gregor enjoys climbing so she decides to move and take some furniture out of his bedroom to give him some more space. As Grete and the mother assemble the furniture, Gregor does hide as normal but Gregor did not want the thought of losing all his remains of his human life so he panicked and climbs the wall to cover a picture of a woman in fur so Grete and his mother would not take it away. Therefore, the mother sees Gregor and goes into a shock mode and faints. Meanwhile, the father comes in and starts chasing Gregor around in the house because he believes that Gregor attacked his mother, now the mother gets up and yells at the father to stop chasing Gregor and Gregor rushes for the door.
As Gregor is transformed into a large insect, his humanity becomes questioned as his family members appear to adapt to his new transformation and how they each develop different images of Gregor’s humanity that still remains inside of him. But Gregor’s transformation mainly alters his outside appearance, which leaves his mind stable and not having some type of memory lost between his mind and body. Even though Gregor’s mind is unchanged he had still tried to stand up right considering that that his body was not suited for him to stand up right and considering that Gregor still had his mind focusing on work despite that he could not work anymore. Therefore, in aspect, he still continued to think with a human mind because his body is not like a humans anymore which makes it unable to reunite his mind and body.
Both of these stories “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka characterize the aberrant and lucid thoughts of behavior that varies across cultures and generations which they depend on one’s perspective. These two stories not only support this type of behavior but both of their main characters demonstrate aberrant behavior. In “Thing Fall Apart” Okonkwo; the main character, shows numerous signs of human aberrancy by being scared to show any emotion because it shows weakness which is Okonkwo’s biggest flaw. Therefore, causes him to think and do precisely the opposite of what his father did. Meanwhile, in “The Metamorphosis” Gregor, also the main character, shows many signs of human aberrancy as well. Gregor shows this by trying to take of an itch but instead feels on one of his many legs then immediately disgusted right after therefore, allowing him to think one way but his body actions are completely different. Okonkwo and Gregor take on their human aberrancy at the same time just in different ways. Okonkwo expresses his aberrancy by associating his masculinity with aggression and feels that the only emotion he can display is anger which causes him to beat on his wives. With Gregor, he expresses his aberrancy by attempting to ignore his transformation of becoming a large insect; only to focus on his job, family, and debt, but then gets accustomed to his transformation. Unlike Gregor, Okonkwo does not get accustomed to his transformation as he gets banned from his village for seven years, opposed to Gregor who mind and body changes but also never gets his mind and body into harmony.
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka are excellent novels/short-stories as they both teach lessons learned through different cultures and giving various perspectives of one’s perspective. They both did very well on demonstrating and defining the terms of irrational and rational as their characters did too, but these two stories are mainly different in time perspective as one was written during the time of colonialism[endnoteRef:4] in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the other was written during the First World War in Europe.[endnoteRef:5] It is quite unique and rare as two different time era written pieces are similarly alike or relate to each other considering that each author experiences are in different atmospheres, not only by location and time era but by ethnicity as well. The ethnicity of each author plays a huge role on why these two stories mainly could not be compared but then again ethnicity does not define one’s perspective of experiences which therefore causes their written pieces to be processed differently but also converted in different cultures and eras. But in the end of these similar but different stories, both stories still end in tragedy as Okonkwo dies and Gregor’s family plan to get rid of him. [4: ] [5: ]