Books and Movies Reviews

Life as a Bug

In Franz Kafka's fanciful novel The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he as been transformed into a beetle. As the story progresses, we can see that Gregor's life as a beetle is not all that different from Gregor's life while in human form. Because of this we have to ask ourselves "Does Gregor Samsa qualify as a human being?" I believe that Gregor does not qualify as a human being and had stopped being truly human long before his metamorphosis.

Writers and philosophers throughout history have pondered on what it means to be human. One of the most famous, Réné Descartes, declared "Cogito, ergo sum" – I think therefore I am. But does Gregor meet this criterion; does he think? From the very beginning of the story Gregor emits a certain perpetual calm, his emotions never straying from a composed tranquility. Instead of being astonished or troubled by his transformation, Gregor wants to "sleep again for a while and forget all this stupidity" (Kafka p.201), as though suddenly turning into a bug doesn't disturb him at all. He only begins to worry when he realizes he is late for work. Gregor truly hates his job, even admitting that it is "degrading" (Kafka p.202), yet he stays in his miserable position in order to support his whole family and to get them out of debt. Each month Gregor willingly hands over his paycheque to the waiting hands of his family, the action "accompanied by no remarkable effusiveness," (Kafka p.219) as though the family expects and even demands Gregor's selflessness. The Samsas eat leisurely breakfasts and take naps in the afternoon while their son is out working an extremely stressful job to support them, instead of a family of his own. In fact Gregor has no social life, staying alone in his room every evening. His only companion is a framed picture of a beautiful woman, and he values it so much…

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