In Harold Ramis’s film, “Groundhog Day” and Franz Kafka’s story, “The Metamorphosis”, both main characters are faced with a life-changing event because of the way they live their lives. In Groundhog Day the main character Phil is an arrogant, sarcastic weatherman absorbed in his own discomforts, without hope, and cut off from other people. He is forced to relive the same day, groundhogs day, over and over again. In “The Metamorphosis the main character is Gregor Samsa, a man who spends his time working to pay off a debt for his father.
Gregor wakes up to find that he has turned into a beetle. Throughout these two works the main characters try to go back to living their life as before not realizing that this is their second chance at life to make things right. Phil manages to do so only by breaking through and becoming a person of intimacy, creativity and compassion which sets him free from his exile of living in the same day over and over again.
As for Gregor, going from someone everyone depends on to something no one wants to care for, he doesn’t get a chance to have everything go back to normal. He dies and his family, for once, is relieved. Groundhog Day lets us experience what it would be like to make a breakthrough like this in our own lives. The movie shows us a character that is like the worst in ourselves. Like us, he finds himself in an inexplicable situation, something like fate. But, unlike us, he gets the luxury of being stuck in the same day until he gets it right.
Where most of us go semi-automatically through most of our days, he is forced to stop and treat each day like a world onto itself, and decide how to use it. In the end, he undergoes a breakthrough to a more authentic self in which intimacy, creativity and compassion come naturally – a self that was trapped inside him and that could only be freed by trapping him. Like many of the heroes of fiction, he can only escape his exile from himself by being exiled in a situation not of his choosing.
This movie hits on a message that is commonly found elsewhere and that appears to express an essential truth. When we get beyond denial and resentment over the conditions of life and death, and accept our situation, it tells us, then life ceases to be a problem and we can become authentic and compassionate. Phil makes two such breakthroughs: first he accepts being condemned to being stuck in the same day, then he accepts the fact that everyone else is condemned to die.
In The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s transformation is kind of an extended metaphor. He deeply resented having to support his family. Desiring to be in turn nurtured by them, he becomes a parasite. The complete dependence of Gregor’s family and employer on him, then, is seen as an ironic foil to the reality of Gregor’s anatomical transformation into a parasite. The Metamorphosis is not upon Gregor, but on his family, as they abandon their dependence on him and learn to be self-sufficient.
One interpretation of the story holds that the title applies equally to Gregor’s sister Grete: she passes from girlhood to young womanhood during the course of the narrative. Another view of Gregor’s transformation is that it is an extended metaphor, carried from abstract concept to concrete reality: trapped in a meaningless job and isolated from the human beings around him, Gregor is thought of as an insect by himself and by others, so he becomes one only to die, and relieving the family of having to take care of him.
Fiction allows us to identify with and play characters who find their true selves, putting us in touch with the universal human nature in each of us. The ability to watch and play the role of fictional characters makes the fiction more interesting and expands our vision of possible ways of being. But, one way or another, it must lead us back to our true selves, the universal, moral being we all are, which is as real as the physical world is real.
Groundhog Day symbolizes just this since Phil treats his life as a game only when he is in despair. Once he has a sense of hope, he becomes more authentic and discovers himself. As for The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s state before he turned into a bug contrasts with the family’s state after the got jobs and began working. I guess Kafka is trying to say that we shouldn’t work like bugs for others leaving out time for ourselves as Gregor had but instead work for ourselves with pride and dignity as the family did at the end of the story.
Courtney from Study Moose
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