Conflict and Alienation in Kafka's Metamorphosis

2651 Words May 30th, 2006 11 Pages
In Franz Kafka's novella, The Metamorphosis, the protagonist (Gregor Samsa), is engaged in a struggle against his oppressors, while at the same time he tries to accommodate the very social structure that is ruining his life. Gregor's family is abusive, yet he constantly forgives them. He is truly altruistic–he works like an animal in order to maintain his family's material comfort. His only dream is to send his beloved sister to the music Conservatory. Gregor is constantly hungry, but "not for these things" (Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, hereafter known as KM). He longs "for nourishment other than food, for an emotional sustenance derived from an active involvement with his family" (Sweeney 152). Simultaneously, he rebels against …show more content…
His sense of duty to his parents is the cause of his banal existence. He works not for himself, but so his family can maintain their comfortable existence. Gregor never seeks to rebel against this familial order. Before his metamorphosis, his everyday animalistic routine barely distinguished him from vermin. When he is home, he "sits... at the table.... studying train schedules" (KM 8). Rules and systems dominate his life–and he is profoundly unhappy and isolated. Gregor's alienation corresponds with Marx's definition of the "externalization" of the worker under capitalism:
‘his work is external to the workers, i.e., it does not form part of his essential being so that instead of feeling well in his work, he feels unhappy, instead of developing his free physical and mental energy, he abuses his body and ruins his mind' (Sokel 149).
Gregor does not work for himself, he works to pay off his father's debt. In turn, his father exploits him. When Gregor finds out that his father actually had money hidden away, he "[nods] emphatically, delighted at this unexpected foresight and thrift" (KM 21). He, however does realize that "[o]f course he actually could have paid off more of his father's debt to the boss with this extra money, and the day on which he could have gotten rid of his job would have been much closer, but now things were undoubtedly better the way his father
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