Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book 67: Finished.

Wow. That was a doozy of a book. Well, 55 pages.

Gregor wakes up to find himself transformed into a hideous bug. This causes a lot of a problems since Gregor is the sole breadwinner in his family and now cannot leave the house for work.

His family's reaction varies. At some points they are disgusted with what he has become. At others, I saw that they felt sympathy. And anger.

As the only individual in a family with a large and heavy weight on his shoulders, Gregor has long taken care of the people in his house. Now, with him locked in his bedroom, he must watch to see how they will survive.

Imagine how it must feel to work hard every day to survive and support your family, but suddenly become incapacitated, unable to help any longer. Now imagine how it must feel to watch that same struggling family, unable to work before, thrive without you there.

That is what Gregor faces as he wastes his life away in his bedroom and watches. His family, not under his care and devotion any longer, seem to do better without him. What kind of life is that?

This story, while downright weird at points, is incredibly touching. From Gregor's point of view we see him go from the cherished hero of the household, to a disturbance and embarrassment, to a being who wastes space. You feel for him and he realizes the hurt and anger he is causing his family. But there is nothing that can be done for him.

You have to wonder though, why the family never helped him before. If they were struggling so much under Gregor's care, why didn't they go back to work sooner? I am sure that is the one question that will always be debated and it offers a lot to think about.

In all, I was surprised at how much I truly enjoyed this little novella. It was weird, quirky, but emotionally powerful. I cannot wait to tackle more Kafka.


  1. Why WOULD they go back to work if they had a dutiful son who would do all the work for them? Gregor shouldered the family's issues because he felt he had to, but did he really? No. It's sadly a pretty common situation. My best friend supported her family for years because her mother had brain cancer and beyond that had to take care of a severely autistic son. Her father would get a job and quit within a few weeks only to relapse into months of unemployement. My friend worked two jobs on top of going to high school in order to support them. Her other two siblings did nothing to help. Indeed one went on to become a prostitute and the other a drug dealer, but neither gave any of their earnings to the family. My friend was expected to just hand over ever penny she made. I spent years trying to convince her to get out of the situation. Eventually she did, and lo and behold her family took care of itself without her, but I think the idea of a group of people sitting back and relying on one strong, committed person is all too commmon.

    I loved so many parts of this book, the father-son conflict, the parts about Gregor being used as the family's crutch, all of it. :)

  2. I've always been intimidated by Metamorphosis, mainly because I think the premise is too weird and partly because Kafka seems so depressing. I never knew, though, that there were mundane and almost universal family elements in the book. This post makes me want to read it this 2011. :)

  3. I must, must finally read it this year. It's comforting to know that while weird, it's also touching.

  4. I wonder how Kafka came up with this idea. I think the way the story begins is brilliant: no explanations, he just wakes up a bug, and doesn't even wonder much about it!

  5. This is one of the books that I am afraid to pick up. Something tells me Kafka is going to be incredibly difficult. But you made me more confident that I might one day be able to tackel this.

  6. Will you feel bad squashing a bug now in the future? *smile* Couldn't help it.

    I think that the question is more existential and less concrete. Why are we here? What's our purpose? If we weren't in the role that we lived does it really matter to those around us?

  7. This a book that every health professional should is a powerful metaphor for what serious illness does to people and their families....hmmm, on that note i'm thinking it may be time for me to pick it up again.

  8. I, too, was shocked by how much I liked The Metamorphosis! I'd always thought a story about a guy turning into a bug wouldn't be my cup of tea. I loved the humor and depth Kafka worked into the story, though.

  9. This always intimidated me, but when I finally did read it I found it much more accessible than it had been in my imagination.

    I heard from one person that it can also be read as a metaphor - that he never really transforms into a bug at all, but it is all in his head. The idea doesn't entirely fit with the plot, but if you think of it non-literally, it does change the story quite a bit.

    Glad you enjoyed it!!

  10. I never really had any interest in reading Kafka until a few months ago when I read a bit about his books and they sounded so intriguing. A story about a man turning into a bug? That alone piques my interest. I didn't realize it was so short, though. Even more incentive to read it!

  11. I read this for my book group and loved our discussion! I'm really looking forward to trying more Kafka, although the volume of short stories I have has some very odd one that convinced me to wait a little while before I jump in to the next. I have to be in the mood.