Hello everyone. It’s Nichole again.
I’m here with my book 2 in my classics challenge.
This is a challenge I have given myself to help expand my horizons. I want to read 66 classic books in 66 days. This is the average amount of time it take to form a habit.
I also want to keep a short running dialogue with myself about what I’ve read. I won’t edit this document, so it maintains it’s true pace of thoughts.
Let’s do this!
Today, I’m going to focus on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis today.
This book is a fair bit shorter. But it’s recommended by many.
I confess to being previously a workaholic. I often worked between 60-120 hour work weeks. And therefore, I found this story a bit uncomfortable. There’s quite a bit of similarity in my previous thought patterns and his.
I’ve since changed jobs and therefore had lots of free time.
Frankly, it’s been a privilege to enjoy so many new cafes, hang out with friends, go to Costco, and read a new classic book a day.
I am of course still working now. But shorter classic books mixed with longer classic books I think make my goal achievable. And it’s been fun developing new interests and experiencing new opportunities.
Here is book 2 of the 66.
I’m a bit rusty in my literature analysis skills. But it seems like Chapter 1 might be a giant metaphor of somebody with depression.
Gregor’s despairing inside has literally become his outside. He has become a giant, grotesque bug.
At first as I was reading this, it was rather uncertain what was going on. The story has such a serious tone, and yet within the first three sentences, the reader discovers a bug has suddenly appeared.
Gregor is clearly a workaholic according to his mother claiming he is a model employee. He never goes out and only thinks of business. His one lone hobby is woodworking.
So, Gregor becomes the actual manifestation of depression in this chapter. And like with most people suffering from depression- nobody likes him very much when he needs their help.
I already feel sad, and we’re only on Chapter 1.
I can’t help but feel a bit sympathetic to Gregor in this chapter.
While Kafka, doesn’t outright say it. He shows us through a variety of situations that Gregor’s parents are taking advantage of him.
They have been hoarding money that their son has been saving which is good. But at the expense of their son, who hates his job.
A son that seems to have shown previous promise in the army and other positions.
In short, Gregor sacrificed his life to appease his parents.
This idea is further explored when the item that Gregor feels the most attachment to is a wooden frame with a beautiful woman in it. The dream of a new life coming soon that will never be realized.
The sister seems to be gaining some independence and rising to the role of leader. But even she can’t bear to look at what her brother has become. It’s all rather sad.
The worst part is there is a part of Gregor that inspires a bit of loathing for him. I want to shake him and tell him, “Hey! They’re taking advantage of you! And they hate you now that you’ve become a burden to them!”
But Gregor can only see his family through rose tinted glasses and perhaps that is the trap. He loves them so much. But he could have had a life if only they would let him go free.
Even his well meaning sister is partially responsible for keeping him in a cage.
This chapter ends with the father dealing what might be a final bow. Gregor is injured now.
So, I found this chapter the most shocking.
The father who before I kind of despised turns out to be the most sympathetic towards Gregor. He is the one who refuses to leave Gregor fo so long.
But in a way, this makes sense.
The women seem to be suffering from caregiver’s syndrome. They use to care but with every new hurdle, it has become too draining. They are the most affected by his change.
In fact, Grete the one who has been the most sympathetic towards Gregor until now is the one who finally snaps. She can’t continue to live with him because she is the one now in his role.
It’s rather telling that the same role Gregor has been dealing with drives her to almost insanity within a month.
The scene where Gregor is so drawn to Grete’s music really showcases why. Grete loves music, and Gregor is drawn to the strength of her passion. Because he himself has let go of his own passions.
More tellingly, the family is still able to make a living without Gregor. So why was Gregor doing it all on his own anyway.
Kafka does a good job sort of elaborating on that. He implies that Gregor just wants everyone to be happy. And so he sacrifices himself. But in doing so, he undervalues the other family members.
His mother despite her asthma is able to make a living sewing. His father goes back to work, and he is sister also is able to take up work.
In fact, the family members once they’ve overcome their strife become joyful again. It makes one wonder, what if Gregor had asked for help before sacrificing himself?
In a way, this story really reflects exactly why one should cultivate their own interests outside of their family’s life. We aren’t any good to those around us if we burn ourselves out. And in fact, we might simply become part of the problem.
We live in a hustle culture. So, it’s easy to sacrifice your life and personality to work. But Gregor’s metamorphosis into a bug exemplifies the sacrifices you must make. And ultimately, Gregor dies alone due to a strike from his own beloved family member.
The whole thing is rather depressing. But it has some interesting points, and it’s lessons to me still seem relevant.
I still feel rather sad after it though. But that’s the power of a classic book.