Self-alienation in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka example

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Self-alienation in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

It is not unusual for writers to use their own life as a basis for literary works, sometimes the best way to understand yourself is to put your feelings to paper. In the novella The Metamorphosis, written right before the beginning of the First World War, Franz Kafka portrays the character who faces the same conflicts as the writer himself. Tense relations with the father, a tedious job and lack of time to pursue the dream of writing are all represented in the story. However, Kafka does not simply retell his life story but uses the key moments to reflect on the process of alienation from family, work and society. He takes a character and strips him of human appearance and qualities by literally turning him into an insect but at the same time omits the details of the anatomical process of transformation that Gregor Samsa undergoes. Kafka concentrates on Gregor’s thoughts and emotions as he gradually gets estranged from his family and society (work). Physical and emotional alienation complement each other and the physical change in the character is not the goal in itself, it only helps the writer to create a picture of inner self-alienation.

The alienation of Kafka-the Praguer was predetermined by his race and language, which were different from the dominant race and language in Prague. As a German-speaking Jew living in the Czech city Kafka belonged to a very specific isolated group. The population of Jews in Prague was not numerous and although they lived there for centuries they kept a certain distance from the Czech. Describing the attitude of the Czech population to the German-speaking population, Nicholas Murray writes the following in his book on Kafka’s biography: “To them, the Prague Germans – Jews and Gentile alike – formed a powerful elite, occupying positions of power and influence out of all proportion to their numbers. They spoke the language of the imperial power and seemed to the Czech minority to be prone to a certain haughtiness” (22). Kafka and his family were living in a smaller world than that of Prague. They spoke German and the Czech viewed the Germans as rulers. However, Kafka’s family were not Germans, they were Jewish, which only contributed to the gap between them and others. Murray concludes: “When one considers the facts – that the Prague German Jew was an industrialist, prosperous businessman, leading bank official, a doctor or lawyer with a large practice, a university professor … – it is not hard to see why there was resentment and why traditional anti-Semitic stereotyping flourished” (23). It was a double form of alienation for Kafka, who did not belong to Prague society - neither by the language nor by his Jewishness.

Kafka’s separation from Prague society and inability to communicate through the common language is reflected in the novella The Metamorphosis as one of the signs of alienations. It is shown through Gregor’s gradual loss of …

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