Where books are chronicled from beginning to end, and never stop being read.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Metamorphosis

Take time to slow down and smell the roses.
Forever, I've heard the colloquialism without giving it much credence. But after reading The Metamorphosis, I realize that perhaps it really is time to slow down and take a moment to savor life.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
It's eerie enough that this book published in the early 1900's seems more valid now than ever. A society anesthetized on callous mediocrity exists on the pages of Metamorphosis. It's a warning of the not so distant future that encompasses a society; busy keeping their heads down and working nonstop, they begin to lose their humanity.

A deep divide is created. People are valued only by their ability to outperform their neighbor. There is no self-worth as an individual. The story predicts the future of women as the major presence in the workforce. Women become the major bread winners who have pushed out most men from high paying, lucrative careers.

Roughly characterized are individuals who epitomize two major insect categories: the beetle that keeps its head down and scurries on, and parasites that leech onto healthy host subjects and suck them dry. So is the life of Gregor Samsa, the main character. In a trifecta of evolution, Gregor begins as a vital male worker, a traveling salesman who clocks countless hours to provide for his mother, father and sister. He is never able to fulfill his family's sense of entitlement. They accrue more debt and never show a drop of sympathy for his back-breaking work loads. Instead of any love, they depict a detached tolerance for Gregor.

Gregor himself has become immune to the callous treatment of his parents and sister. He only pushes himself harder because he equates a larger paycheck to love from his family. As he comes and goes, constantly in a chaotic jumble of motion, he has lost all of his traits as a man. Then, one day, he wakes up to find himself metamorphosed into an insect. A beetle, to be exact.

Everything goes downhill from there. In twist of irony, Gregor becomes more human-like with his feelings and emotions. In place of tolerance, his father begins to abuse him. His weak mother is unable to handle his physical change and begins to ignore him. Grete, his sister, becomes more visible and begins to replace Gregor as a provider. Grete comes to resent the useless beetle that her brother has become.

Even in with his final breath, Gregor is more devoted to his family than ever, believing that his death would benefit everyone. They take everything from him. His pride, his humanity, his dignity. Perhaps society is also to blame. It has come to a boiling point where generations have indoctrinated themselves with a vicious rapacity. The ultimate goal in mind has become avarice.

The story is powerful and moving. It causes the reader to feel a deep sorrow for the helplessness of a dehumanized and neglected man.

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