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The Metamorphosis. “…his predicament is the predicament of the modern man…” –W.H. Auden. By Franz Kafka. FRANZ KAFKA 1883-1924. Born in Prague (1883) German speaking Jew in a mostly Christian/Czech-speaking world I solated loner Difficult relationship with his father

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the metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis

“…his predicament is the predicament of the modern man…”

–W.H. Auden

By Franz Kafka

franz kafka 1883 1924
FRANZ KAFKA 1883-1924

Born in Prague (1883)

German speaking Jew in a mostly Christian/Czech-speaking world

Isolated loner

Difficult relationship with his father

He never married (engaged several times)

Lived in his parents’ house most of his life

Could not find a place to write

franz kafka

HATED his job- insurance company

Full-time job was interfered with his writing

Eventually quit because of illnesses

He died of tuberculosis a month before his 41st birthday (1924)

franz kafka1

Extremely critical of his own work

Never satisfied

Had to be encouraged by his friend and fellow writer, Max Brod, to continue writing

Kafka did not think that “The Metamorphosis” was worth publishing

franz kafka2

At the end of his life, he felt very negative about his work

Instructed Brod to burn all his manuscripts

Brod ignored him


Metamorphosis (noun): 1. a transformation in physical form or character 2. a sudden change in something

the metamorphosis1
The Metamorphosis

Kafka’s best-known story

First published in 1915 in German

Written over the course of three weeks in 1912

First translated into English in 1936

the metamorphosis2
The Metamorphosis

The haunting story of a man transformed into an insect.

Scholars and critics praise it, but argue about what it means

Freudian, Marxist, religious, and existentialist interpretations have been proposed

the metamorphosis3
The Metamorphosis

Debate over whether GregorSamsa symbolizes the human condition

It is generally agreed that story portrays a world that is hostile and absurd

  • Major themes:
    • Family relationships
    • Alienation & isolation
    • Individual vs. Society
    • The dehumanizing despair of modern life
    • The search for meaning
part i a famous opening line
Part I: A Famous Opening Line
  • “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect” (Kafka 945).
  • Compare with another famous opening line . . .
part i a famous opening line1
Part I: A Famous Opening Line
  • “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen” (Orwell1).
      • From 1984
  • What do these two lines have in common?
compare the beginnings to the endings
Compare the beginnings to the endings:
  • “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect” (958).
  • “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen” (Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four 1).
both sentences make their points through defamiliarization
Both sentences make their points through defamiliarization:
  • They initially describe normal, everyday, almost boring events, only to disrupt this sense of normalcy at the very end.
  • The disruption of readerly expectation is sometimes called a defamiliarization effect
lost in translation
Lost in Translation?
  • English translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as “insect,” but this is not entirely accurate, as, in German, Ungeziefer literally means “vermin”
    • Why might “vermin” actually be more appropriate?
lost in translation1
Lost in Translation?
  • “Vermin” can either be defined as a parasite feeding off the living or a vulnerable entity that scurries away upon another’s approach.
the metamorphosis4
“The Metamorphosis”

Symmetrical, three-part structure

Black humor- humor in response to pain

Symbols are sometimes puzzled over

What makes the story memorable is the central situation of man-turned-insect and the image of him on his back, helpless

point of view
Point of View

Third personlimited omniscient

Limited to Gregor’s point of view

His thoughts and feelings are presented

Most of the events are seen through his eyes

The point seems to present a picture of Gregor and the world as he understands it

style point of view
Style (Point of view)

This does NOT mean that all of Gregor’s judgments are to be accepted

On the contrary, Kafka uses irony and black humor to indicate that Gregor is at times misled

For instance, in thinking that he can still go to the office or that his family is putting his interests first

point of view1
Point of view

The point of view changes at the end

It becomes simply impersonal third-person narration, remaining on the outside of the characters


Very constricted setting; almost all the events take place in the Samsa house, mostly in Gregor’s room

Reflecting the fact the Gregor is essentially a prisoner

Small room and unclean toward the end

Gregor can see outside, but he sees an overcast sky, rain, fog, and a gray hospital building

The setting only changes at the very end


Three parts

Each part ends with Gregor being forced back into his room




Loss of voice



Picture frame



Locks and Keys

The lodgers

Violin music

Father and Deputy Director



Eponyms- words derived from the names of actual or fictional people


Kafkaesque- having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality


Implies a world that is fearful and menacing in its ambiguity and complexity.

His haunting, disturbing, and sometimes grotesque images COMBINED with his struggling but ultimately defeated heroes, defined an age where an alienated man questioned and grappled with meaning and justice, but is denied answers.

as you watch
As you watch…
  • Analyze how each clip fulfills the description of Kafkaesque
  • Jot down answers to the following questions and be prepared to share:
    • How can the world around the protagonist be viewed as nightmarish/vague/complex?
    • How is the protagonist struggling/alienated?
    • What is the protagonist questioning?
kafkaesque situations in film and television
Kafkaesque situations in film and television

Breaking Bad

Office Space

The Matrix

kafkaesque situations in film and television1
Kafkaesque situations in film and television

Groundhog Day