#1: Did I Just Read It Right?

The first book review here.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

The very first line of the book made me go, “Wait…what?” The protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find himself transform into a ‘horrible vermin’. The questions ‘why’ and ‘how’ about his transformation are avoided, which is what makes the book all the more interesting.

Gregor Samsa is a travelling salesman, who wakes up one day to find out he overslept. He tries to move, but he is unable to. He thinks about the consequences of missing work. And then, the story is about his changing life and the changing relation between him and his family.

Gregor’s family consists of his father, mother and his sister, Grete Samsa. He shares a close relationship with his sister, and after his metamorphosis, she is the only one who helps him out after his metamorphosis. His mother tries to communicate with him, and when she tries, she cannot stand the sight of her son and passes out. His father, however, immediately loses all hope for his son, and thinks of killing him. Eventually, his metamorphosis becomes a burden for his family, and the family look for ways to end this suffering. This part of the story clearly shows how the family’s sympathy is limited.

After a lot of time, Gregor decides to die, realising that he is nothing but a burden on the family. His appearance, incapability of providing financial support and his inability of helping himself drives him to death by starvation. Throughout the story, we see Gregor going through different phases. We see the disconnection between his mind and the body when we read about his lack of communication. We see his caring nature whenever we read about his thoughts about his sister.

The book makes you shift uncomfortably, because you will be able to relate to it in some aspect. The story is unconventional, but gets you thinking. Also, the fate of the family is not completely revealed at the end, but Kafka writes just enough for you to go ahead and construct an ending.

There are two things that still have me captivated. These things are recurring, and they recur enough times to make me wonder if they actually mean something else.

One, there is excessive use of the number three. It all starts with the book, which is divided into three parts. There are three members in his family, and by the end of the story, they’ve had three servants. At a point in the story, there are three lodgers, and all of them have beards. So, three beards. Interestingly, there are three rooms in the house, and three doors to Gregor’s room. What does this imply? I leave it to you.

Two, the opening and closing of doors. Yes. All through the story, the doors are treated with special care, it seems. The opening, closing and the slamming of doors are carefully treated. This may not be as interesting as the first point, because it is perfectly explainable. There are far too many doors, and to provide the reader with an accurate image of the scene, the movement of the doors have to be described accurately. But I still feel something off about it, but I’m unable to point out what it is.

I would love to write about the ending of the book, but I think I’ve given out enough spoilers already. All you need to know is this: this book talks about existentialism and how absurd our lives are. It all depends on how you understand and interpret the story. Personally, I think this is a great book, and is certainly among the very few ones I’ll revisit.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.


3 thoughts on “#1: Did I Just Read It Right?

  1. “The questions ‘why’ and ‘how’ about his transformation are avoided, which is what makes the book all the more interesting.” – Because they’re the least interesting. Imagine if this thing happened to you – how you’d react to it and live with it would be a much bigger influence on your life. Our desire to know ‘why’ is to make sense of the world, but the world doesn’t make that much sense. I think Kafka comes from that school of philosophy.

    I myself write a lot of stories where the ‘why’ doesn’t matter, but how the characters deal with the events.

    This was a good review that made me want to read the book even more.


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