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Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis Understood Through Societal Discrimination

“The Metamorphosis”, written by Franz Kafka is a chronicle about Gregor Samsa transforming into a big bug overnight and his family’s response to that transformation. The fictional character named Gregor Samsa is used by the author as a tool to represent the disabled population and the “people of color” and thus, Gregor and the majority of these people who are often discriminated against can be considered to be near analogous to each other. By observing parallels between these people and Gregor, we can see a lot of ways in which discrimination by physical appearance is depicted in the story.

Penetrating the totality of “The Metamorphosis” is a recurring factor which is never experienced in the real world. Gregor Samsa is no more a human being, but rather a big insect. It is crucial to inquire why the author selected to change Gregor Samsa’s life by metamorphosing him into a bug. Parallels can be taken up from “The Metamorphosis” to the lives of handicapped people and those people of color which enlighten both the significance and the motive behind the bug metaphor quite importantly.

In the translation made by David Wyllie of “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor is depicted as a “horrible vermin” having legs which are “pitifully thin”. A bug is commonly regarded as feeble, small, undistinguished, and usually not worthy of a great deal of attention. Kafka has rendered the poor self image of disabled population and people of color into his story by employing this hemipterous insect metaphor as a manner to establish evidence of social discrimination against these designated populations.

Everything is depicted literally, and hence the reader’s attention is pulled in to the single metaphor: “The Metamorphosis” itself. However, the points of this are insignificant. What is substantial is the meaning behind “The Metamorphosis”. Being an insect, Gregor is insignificant and hideous to others just like how people view some disabled working people and colored people. An elaboration on the introductory feature can be seen: the information that ‘Gregor was a traveling salesman’ is introduced in parenthesis. Ironically, the understatement stresses the relevance of this fact.

To Gregor and all those who toil in this money-driven society he really does not exist. Paradoxically, if he attempted to quit his job he would become, in the opinion of respectable competitive businessmen, a distasteful parasite. If he goes to work, he is insignificant, but if he decided not to work he would outrage those who are on the job. Either direction, he acquires one of the properties of an insect. However, in “The Metamorphosis” Gregor does not simply liken himself to an insect, he was transformed into one. He is metamorphosed in to the metaphor that exemplifies his substantive self.

In just a couple of paragraphs the author is able to enlighten his criticism of existence in a contemporary capitalistic society. A good deal of the literature around handicapped people revolves on the matters and strategies for prospective employees in applying for and finding employment. There is often little emphasis on the issues for handicapped people who are working. The literature indicates that the heaviest roadblock to getting ahead and progressing in employment is not the physical surroundings but the antagonistic attitudes frequently showed by employers and colleagues towards handicapped people.

The Right to Work article by the Human Rights Commission pertains to “the enduring stigmatisation of people with disabilities in the workplace” (p. 58). On the other hand, being a person of color in the United States has its disadvantages and they include personal affronts, harassments, secernment, economic and social exploitation, in addition to threats, bullying and violence. These disadvantages are not experienced by all person of color however each have had a taste of some of them and they each went through the exposure to violence that being a person of color in this nation implicates (Kivel 26).

Moreover, knowledge is power, and in the narrating of “The Metamorphosis”, the author was empowering the disabled and colored people population by demonstrating that they learned to distinguish the consequences that the society has upon them and even an awareness that their own self persona might be blemished. For the length of the story the character Gregor dealt with his being a bug with an air of unconcern, and surely as a matter with much little bearing than the rest of his family.

As a matter of fact, for some time Gregor looked at his puzzling shape to be of small essence that he is still bothered about work and forgets that he has the puzzling visible appearance of a bug, “And even if he did catch the train he would not avoid his boss’s anger as the office assistant would have been there to see the five o’clock train go” (Kafka 6). This contrasts with the view of Gregor’s father who looked at him to be a vermin who could be destroyed for the greater good, as would be subsequently shown in the apple encounter scene.

Perspective is significant in this situation, as it demonstrates that Gregor was completely aware that despite his new physical appearance, he was still an individual with a good character just like those incapacitated individuals, the black, the Hispanic and Asians and other non-white nationals who are have made a good deal of contribution for their society, while his father looked at him from a view blurred by Gregor’s exterior such that he looked to be a mere bug.

By applying the character of Gregor to the discriminated population, it becomes evident that these people acknowledged that although they felt and seemed negligible, powerless, and otherwise bug-like in nature to the society, these impressions were resultant from the translation of other people. In “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor Samsa is the important character. Their family is composed of him, being the only male child and the eldest, his younger sister, and his parents. Gregor is employed as a traveling salesman and thus brings home the bacon for his family members.

There is no well-explained reason on why Gregor has such inherent selfless care for his family which is rather a wonder given that his family members only consider Gregor mainly as their source of income and offer no reason for why Gregor should feel obligated to toil for them. This is manifested by the father’s first response to Gregor’s transformation, “Even before the first day had come to an end, his father had explained to Gregor’s mother and sister what their finances and prospects were” (par.

42). If Gregor’s welfare was in fact more crucial than the money, then the father would be observed discussing the more significant matter of Gregor’s condition. This is comparable to the never-ending aspiration of discriminated-against population to strive for acceptance by the white community (Frankental and Sichone 72). In South Africa, the fate of a child is determined by the color of its skin or affiliation with the colored people categories (Frankental and Sichone 71).

In spite of Gregor’s unwellness state, it is clear that he has invested a great deal of emotional value upon his family because he keeps going to work in an unsatisfying job to provide for them. This is highly manifested in the colored people’s hope to imbibe into the superior society. This acculturation was less an impulse for recognition of their value as individuals and citizens as well as acceptance as compeers or partners by the white people. Throughout the twentieth century, acquiring such affirmation was one of the heaviest imperatives inside the discriminated-against community, particularly among the petite capitalist elite.

The late nineteenth generation of colored personal identity emanated by a political strategy that was deeply assimilationist. And during the twentieth century, in spite of the unfavorable judgment of the racist society, all that the coloured governmental ruling and the capitalist it comprised actually desired was for colored populate to be admitted in the superior society and partake in the welfares of the citizenship on the ground of individual virtues (Adhikari 8).

That Gregor would like to resign from his line of work but remains to do so at it is both a manifestation on how these discriminated-against people came to assess their own ethnic society as a consequence of reclusiveness from the members of the white society. The isolation aspect of the lives of handicapped people and colored people which explains Gregor’s continuing employment came about because these people, particularly the colored ones were born into the minority.

Because of their status in the society, their families would tend to seek for a place free from the regular social criticism from the dominant society. This situation would have sustained their perceptiveness and desire to stand by their own brotherhood because they would be the stead where minority discrimination would be less. People of color had always looked upon the whites to be supreme in almost every respect. Whether it be the physical aspect and features, the power to dominate, or even the inherent power they mostly conceived of that they had over everything.

These people tend to oscillate with their desires for equality hoping the entire time that they could accomplish a likeness of the white’s mighty image. One of the many resemblances which may bring light to a character in the story is Grete. In The Metamorphosis, Grete is the sister of Gregor, and the only member of the Samsa family who can put up to interact with Gregor after his transfiguration. Initially, she reaches out her graces as much as she can, attempting to see and ascertain Gregor’s new taste in foods, and wanting to redo his bedroom to make his existence more comfier.

Close among them all, Grete is the type of individual who is less perturbed by the new appearance of his brother. She’s the only one who shares a mutual connection with Gregor solider than the rest of their family and may very well be the only one whom Gregor holds so dear. She’s often the only means of communication between Gregor and his family and hence, held a great importance for Gregor. In the lives of the handicapped people and colored people in the society, there exists that person whom Grete represents.

She represents the organization of Human Services Department who extends to the working handicapped individuals; there are different school organizations as well like one which the Helping Hands School and The Academy provides outreach services to those children who exhibit growth and developmental disabilities; the NASA also launched a fresh program that geared for drawing more individuals particularly, the people of color, to get involved in science and technology arena; a few big names in the show-business industry have reached out to the minorities by several ways: they donate a large amount of money for the welfare of these people and some went to the great extent of adopting colored babies and provide them a stable future.

In the end however, the explanation on why Gregor was penalized in “The Metamorphosis” has nothing to do with religious connection than it does with the lives of handicapped people and people of color still being unable to be fully accepted and free from discrimination in this capitalist society. Either way, by making a comparison to the lives of these people, it can be viewed that their desire to be accepted and considered equal in the society that they live in deeply affected so many aspects of their existence, and it is because they share a great deal of similarity with Gregor Samsa after his transfiguration that the disabled population and people of color are perceived to be the Gregor Samsa in real life. Reference Adhikari, Mohamed. Not White Enough, Not Black Enough Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community (Ohio RIS Africa Series). New York: Ohio UP, 2005.

Frankental, Sally, and Owen Sichone. South Africa’s diverse peoples a reference sourcebook. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Human Rights Commission. Human Rights in New Zealand Today: New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights. Auckland: Human Rights Commission, 2004. Kafka, Franz. Letter to his father. Trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins. n. d. 4 Dec. 2007 <http://www. kafka-franz. com/KAFKA-letter. htm>. Kivel, Paul. Uprooting racism how white people can work for racial justice. 2nd ed. Gabriola Island, B. C: New Society, 2002. Metamorphosis. Trans. David Wyllie. Project Gutenberg, 2005. 24 Nov. 2007 <http://www. gutenberg. org/files/5200/5200-h/5200-h. htm>.

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