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Alienation in Kafka

Autor:   •  December 5, 2017  •  1,884 Words (8 Pages)  •  195 Views

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These three reactions to Gregor’s transformation as a result of the initiation of his isolation by the manager demonstrate the spectrum of reactions. From the immediate acceptance of the hierarchy represented by Mr. Samsa, to the true compassion of Grete and the idealism of Mrs. Samsa, Kafka shows how a wide variety of reactions is expected from society, and how people often change their opinions.

Similarly to how social pressures affect his mother, Gregor is also convinced through his respect for authority that he deserves the isolation enforced on him by society. He believes in those above him in the social hierarchy to such an extent that he eventually reaches the conclusion that he would be better off dead than to have his family suffering because of his presence. Like his father, Gregor has a strong respect for authority and served in the military until his father, who is an authoritative figure in his life, needed financial help so he became “almost overnight, a traveling salesman, who naturally had entirely different possibilities for earning money (...) which could be set out on the table at home in front of his astonished and delighted family” (43). Gregor’s decision to help his family pay off their debt without thinking of the effect it would have on his own happiness or considering refusing shows how firmly he is entrenched in the hierarchical system. His belief that authoritative figures are always correct leads him to think that since society dictates that he is worthless and merits isolation, he would be better off dead than a burden to society. This is shown after Grete and Mr. Samsa decide that they want him gone, but Gregor’s “own thought that he had to disappear was, if possible, even more decisive than his sister’s.” (89). He overhears his family bemoaning their misfortune and since they are above him on the hierarchical structure, Gregor believes that he has to die in order to spare them the trouble of having to deal with him. This illustrates how Kafka believes that society is so dependent on a hierarchical structure and the guidance from authoritative figures that they cannot think for themselves and even the person who is isolated may still respect and follow those higher in the hierarchy. This is the final step in the transmission of an idea through a social hierarchy whereby everyone believes that a person is lesser and should not exist, including the alienated person themselves.

The Metamorphosis comes together to show the hierarchical pattern Kafka believes a society follows in regard to isolation and alienation. He uses the manager of the company Gregor works for to model the instigation of isolationism, which in society is determined by the most important person in the hierarchy. Gregor’s family represents society as a whole and is used to illustrate the variety of reactions the people in society after they are told who to alienate. These reactions range from immediate, unquestioning agreement with those higher in the hierarchy, to idealistically supporting the isolated person, to sympathizing with and trying to help the alienated person. He also uses Grete to demonstrate the dynamic state of human reactions, by changing from sympathetic and caring to vicious and unsupportive by the end of the novella. Kafka continues this shaping of society from the hierarchical structure by causing Gregor himself to agree with the authoritative figures in his life and conform to the idea that he is worthless, thus imposing self-isolation. The interactions between the characters in The Metamorphosis show how Kafka believes that the isolation and alienation of a person in society is initiated by those at the top of the social hierarchy and works its way down through the hierarchy until eventually everyone in society has been influenced to accept the initial decision of the person on top. Kafka uses these characters skillfully, but it seems to be simply his bleak outlook on life, and he gives no suggestion on how to improve society. It is a story about alienation, and depression as a part of that. We see that in Gregor's melancholy and how Gregor felt alien even to himself. If humanity had some way to work on itself as a whole, to be able to prevent people feeling this way, the world would be a better place for everyone.


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