Franz Kafka “The metamorphosis” Different person who reads, different meaning it has

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(This is based on a situation that a fictional person Tatsuo Mino, who likes gym-training and ramen, asked naniwa-t4e about this book and he answers)

Thank you for sending me a text message the other day. Well, you asked me about Franz Kafka ‘The metamorphosis’. Not all literature fans have read it, but perhaps almost all of them have heard the title. Here the word metamorphosis doesn’t mean Gregor Samsa, the main character, transforms into a superhero. He transforms into a big, unknown, creeping bug.


“Please tell me its summary.”

An ordinary salesperson Gregor Samsa had been making a living of his parents and sister. One morning he woke up and found himself transformed into a big bug. Now, naturally his family had to take care of him who become unable to work. His parents and sister started to work and his sister did things around him. His family got exhausted due to Gregor who was their heavy load. They hired a housekeeper for their chores and took in boarders to help a household. One night sister started to play violin, her pastime. Borders asked her to play before them. She played for them and its tune came to Gregor’s ears who had been shut away in his room….

“Why did Gregor transformed into a bug?”

 It’s absolutely unclear. Kafka wrote nothing about it. He could write how or why. But then it can’t be avoided that the way we read is bound, can it? For example, if its cause is illness, ‘How did he came to the illness? What does it mean? Couldn’t he be cured?’. If Gregor had a kind of obsession to transform and it brought him to become a bug, ‘Why did Gregor wish to transform? By it what did he try to get? Why did it happen only to Gregor though also some other person had such wishes?’. Please imagine you go to a park which has a big slide. It makes you to play only with it, doesn’t it? But, if it has no playground equipment? You can play baseball, soccer, do walking, and so on. You like gym-training, so you can find a way to do some. It’s not bad to spend time on a bench in a sunshine, too. Perhaps you can find countless ways to enjoy yourself. I think “The metamorphosis” is like a park without playground equipments. Kafka didn’t write a reason of Gregor’s metamorphosis, that makes ‘The metamorphosis’ still read enjoyably as a novel which has many different ways to read.

“How should I read such a strange story?”

No wonder you ask me so, it’s actually a strange story. “The relationship between the author Kafka and his father is the theme of this novel” this is a very popular interpretation. From the middle stage of the story Gregor’s father is described as a father who is strict and reigning his son, it is said Kafka’s father was also like this. In fact, in Kafka’s famous short novel ‘The judgement’ appears a father who tells his son to commit a suicide. It seems that for Kafka the relationship with his father was an important theme.

There’s also an interpretation “solitude and an unstable position is its theme”. Gregor transformed into a bug and it became unclear whether he was a member of the family or not, it can be a metaphor of Kafka’s an unstable position who was a Jewish person.

“This can be read as a relationship between a person with acquired disability and his or her family”, some people say so. It means the relationship between Gregor and his family seems like this on an interpretation the bug is a metaphor of a person who acquired disability due to an accident. But it is unknown whether it is Kafka’s intention or not.
I read ‘The metamorphosis’ three ways, as follow:

A story of dependence

Gregor’s family depended him financially and mentally. His metamorphosis made him unable to work nor to take care of himself and depend on his family. Can it go on?

A slapstick comedy

The scene at which Gregor as a bug appeared to his family and his boss for the first time, a tune of his sister’s violin brought him before boarders, they are slapstick comedies with no doubt.

A story of a family which gets over big crises

Big crises ‘a member of the family became a bug’ ’losing a breadwinner’ came over Samsa family. They began to work, hire a housekeeper, took in boarders to get over them. Can they?

Different person who reads, different meaning it has. It’s how ‘The metamorphosis’ interests us, I think.

“What would Kafka like to say with ‘The metamorphosis’? “

We can not necessarily say ‘this is the meaning of this novel ’ as mentioned above. First, did Kafka mean to give it some meanings? Even it is unknown. Kafka might be interested in ‘how will “The metamorphosis” be read?’.

A conclusion

 ‘The metamorphosis’ can be transformed into many different forms by those who reads, there is no novel which has appeal like this. Into which form will you transform this? It’s not long nor difficult to understand, so why don’t you try it, for example while eating ramen?

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