The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka has much to say about gender roles, especially when examined through the feminist lens. When they ought to be contemplating the more significant phenomenon of the mirror for a feminist, the ambiguities in Kafka’s vocabulary create a tension between socially acceptable views of women and his investigation of those views, which may explain why the mirror in Metamorphosis appears to show a different image (Kafka 20). By casting Grete and mother Samsa as Gregor’s guardians and feeders and then showing their revolt against these roles, Kafka suspends and modifies European, urban, and early twentieth-century masculine attitudes about women throughout the narration of his characters’ experiences (Atikah 77). This research paper analyzes the noticeable and unnoticeable meanings of transformation based on masculinity, feminism, and gender roles, as illustrated by Franz Kafka in the story The Metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis is written in the kind of language in deconstructionist terms that fold back upon itself (Atikah 77). Kafka’s articulation of self-exposure is ironically contemporaneous with self-dehumanization. Grete’s escape from her social role at the story’s end follows the same pattern as Gregor’s, in that both characters must pay a demeaning price for their freedom. Grete represents the ambiguity of gender norms and the paradox of individual autonomy. Farahmandian and Pang argued that Grete’s female identity develops as Gregor’s masculine one disintegrates.
Metamorphosis typically reflects masculinist beliefs and orientations because the tragedy and significance of Grete’s character have been relegated to the paradigm of masculine estrangement (Kafka 221). The Marxist focus on Gregor argues that long before his Metamorphosis into a colossal insect, he learned that human power might be swapped and depleted by changing man into an enslaved person. Men became enslaved when they were made the object of exchange (Asriningtyas et al. 276). Whether or not man liked it, the actions become passive (Kafka 188). Because Metamorphosis turns the subject into an object and discusses the father’s ability to barter with his children’s bodies, Engels’ language of exchange, conversion, and passivity seem relevant to Kafka’s metamorphic theme.
According to Atika, the sale of his children by the father, such as the first fruit of parental rights and monogamy (78). Gregor has become so accustomed to an identity in which he must be sold and sold that he still worries about missing a day of work, being sacked on the spot, and the debt he owes his chief, although he has discovered a new insect body. With this Marxist lens, Gregor represents working men who perform the responsibilities to have strong relationships with their partners and children.
Through Gregor’s state, eventually shameful because he is reduced to relying on an unattractive baby, Kafka imagines what it is like to depend on women’s care. Furthermore, Kafka is fascinated by women’s attempts to keep their households and bodies clean and lively (Farahmandian and Pang 123). This perception is enlarged with every detail that humiliates and weakens Gregor while simultaneously empowering Grete, who cares for Gregor, ironically, at his own and perhaps at Kafka’s-expense. For this reason, the transformation is best understood as a literary experiment that explores themes only alluded to by the story’s tenuous title.
Kafka documents the psychological damage inscribed on males by a capitalist, patriarchal society and the psychological damage inscribed on women (Atikah 778). Kafka’s transposition of the male role into the feminine, of Gregor into Grete, softens the inequalities between them and the disregard granted to women in a culture concerned with men’s upward progress, a preoccupation with which Kafka was well aware in both his professional and personal lives (Kazemian 165). Grete is restricted from engaging in outside employment or free living. Gregor does not wish that his sister will go outside, and Grete has to obey it. Grete gains the freedom to provide for her family and establish independence after Gregor’s transformation into a bug.
While writing Metamorphosis, Kafka did much introspection on his gender and sexuality. Some have suggested that Kafka’s ability to self-identify limply was the seed for his creative output (Prithivirajan 301). He could envision a world in which male and female desires, qualities, and differences were not essential features of human nature, thanks to the “permanent estrangement” he felt as a result of his inability to develop an “unequivocal” masculine identity. The pronouns it and “thing to describe Gregor exemplifies this commitment to gender equality.
The charwoman breaks the news, “It is dead.” “It is cold and dead on the floor!” (Prithivirajan 39). Grete’s ultimate rejection of Gregor as a sibling and her Metamorphosis I founded on the increasing reification or it-ness of Gregor’s body. In response to her question, “But how can it be Gregor?” Kafka wrote to Felice Bauer: “I just do not rest in myself; I am not always “something,” and if I ever was “something,” I pay for it by ‘being nothing’ for months on end.” (Kazemian 144). These oblique revelations about the author suggest that the “something” from which Kafka wrote obliquely and from which Gregor transformed into an insect is Kafka’s conception of a perfectly virile and influential body.
Kafka has a crab-like approach to women and is eager to foster women’s intellectual growth. Kafka, like Gregor, wishes he could be unsexed or re-sexed in his journals, and he writes, “With my sisters, and this was especially true in the early days, I was often a different person than with other people” (Farahmandian and Pang 29). In her quest for independence and identity, she enacted her brother’s wildest and most unattainable fantasies: she defied her father, worked the land, ran away from home, and married a non-Jew. Therefore, it is right that Metamorphosis is a radical personal fantasy concerned with the relationship between father and son and the ones of brothers and sisters.
Kafka’s language is structured to illustrate, in the most specific terms imaginable, the gradual destruction of Gregor’s male identity (Prithivirajan 33). His initial focus is on male ideals; he says to his wife and chief clerk, “I will be attending to business very shortly.” Even when he sees what his physique has become, he still expects Grete to treat him with respect due to his older brother. He says, “Not for lack of appetite would she bring in some other food more to his taste? (Lestienne 60). By making such demands, Gregor ironically gives Grete the power to make him dependent on her, and when her attitude toward him becomes less sympathetic as he becomes dirtier and smellier.
He reacts by becoming even dirtier and stinker and becoming more hostile. The author writes, “She not only retreated but sprang back as though in terror and banged the door shut; a stranger would have well assumed he had been lying in wait for her there intending to bite her.” (Lestienne 28). Gregor undergoes many stages of responding to male anger, each of which is blocked not just by his father’s physical abuse but also by his awareness of Grete’s developing “resolve” and “self-confidence,” which tempt her to “exaggerate the horror of her brother’s plight”(Lestienne 223).
The absence of Gregor signifies that the Samsas will relocate to a less expensive home that is “better positioned” and that they will undertake more excursions to increase Grete’s chances of finding a husband. Grete will be the one to carry on Gregor’s business model of exchanging goods and services for debts in perpetuity. All three Samsa men now have the same smug confidence when discussing the significance of Gregor’s death; it is just a matter of letting “bygones be bygones.”(Atikah 75) The fact that Grete can be substituted for Gregor in “Metamorphosis” and that her substitution for him can be inscribed through male imagination suggests that we must differentiate between masculine writers and male writers; we should acknowledge Kafka’s discomfort with the male role and with a language symbolically owned by a male literary establishment (Atikah 77). According to Atikah, as a prophet of the difficulties generated by the woman question, Kafka’s writing no longer conveys a message to (alienated) men only (76).
To conclude the analysis of the story, The Metamorphosis contains two distinct meanings. The unnoticeable meaning and the noticeable meaning. While Gregor’s outward alteration is noticeable, the author also considers his inner shift as a result of facing unfamiliar circumstances. The change in perspective within the family is also observable. They gradually shed their need on Gregor as they take on more and more parental responsibilities.
Asriningtyas, Devicha Lidya, and Ali Mustofa. “Gregor Samsa’s Self Alienation in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis: Lacanian Psychoanalysis.” Humanitatis: Journal of Language and Literature 8.2 (2022): 261-276.
Atikah, Nurul. “A psychoanalysis study in the main character representing franz kafka as the author in the metamorphosis novella.” Diss. Universitas Bangka Belitung, 2021, pp. 76-45
Farahmandian, Hamid, and Pang Haonong. “Existential Failure in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.” Forum for World Literature Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, June 2018, pp. 334
Kafka, Franz. “The metamorphosis.” Schocken Books, 1948, pp. 5-334
Khairunnisa, Anindya Firda. “Malformation and Isolation: Critique to Jewish Orthodoxy Found in Franz Kafka’s” The Metamorphosis”.” Lexicon 4.1 (2018): 69-80.
Lestienne, Solenne. “Identities in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) and In the Penal Colony (1919).” International Review of Literary Studies 2.1 2020: 20–98.
Prithviraj, Asma “Absurd Transformation in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.” Electronic Research Journal of Literature 2 2020, pp 33-45