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The Animal as Liberating “Self” in The Metamorphosis

In the bantam classic edition of The Metamorphosis there are several critical essays. He or she all give their own views on what Kafka, the author, is trying to get across with the story. In Wilhelm Emrich’s essay, Emrich describes the conflict of one verses self, and how self is irremovable from one. The self is one’s alienation and is nonexistent to anybody else in the world. Reading The Metamorphosis, has made Emrich’s essay very agreeable and accurate with his thesis.

Gregor Samsa, the main character, goes through a major transformation that affects one, but not self exactly going with Emrich’s essay.

Gregor, overnight, metamorphosed into a monstrous vermin. Gregor could not believe it, so he thought he could go back to sleep and think it was just nonsense. Gregor, continued talking about work, until he noticed that he missed the five o’ clock train. Gregor then tries to move to his right side where he always slept on.

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No matter how hard he tried, he would end up on his back.

Gregor stops and thinks:

“Oh God,” he thought, “what a grueling job I’ve picked! Day in, day out on the road. The upset of doing business much worse than the actual business in the home office, and, besides, I’ve got the torture of traveling, worrying about seeing new faces, no relationships that last or get more intimate. To the devil with it all!”(pg. 3-4)

How the Rational Part Overcomes Gregor’s Personality

The signs of Gregor being metamorphosed to a verminous creature were of plenty, yet all he could think about is going through with his plans from work.

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The rational thinking, “One,” is still in effect and therefore, never lets Gregor’s thoughts out of his real world objective.

Emrich says, “It does not enter his mind at all that he could perhaps be hindered in his business trip by his transformation. At the outset this consideration is beyond scope of his imagination. For him metamorphosis is nonexistent. He remains rooted in the realm of the impersonal ‘one’. The ‘self’ is a burdensome verminous bug, a monstrous creature of nightmare that cannot be reality.”(pg. 118)

Gregor Looking for His Inner Self

Gregor is looking for his most inner self. He stays saying to himself that once he gets the money to pay of his parents debt, he will then make the great leap for himself. Gregor’s leap is unknown to the reader and to himself. Kafka uses the form of the a verminous creature to put Gregor in a form that is quite alien to him.

Emrich states, “ However, for Kafka this free, animal from of existence has always been a fundamental means of expressing the antinomies of human existence. Animals do not yet live in a state of consciousness that delimits, objectifies, and thereby hypostatizes everything. An animal still finds itself in the ‘great instinctive feeling of freedom in all directions.’ For Kafka, animal existence is therefore a thoroughly positive sphere that is still present in the interior of man, even if only as a memory of the emotional world and the psychological level of the child. It appears primarily in man’s dreams, in that state of in which rational consciousness is excluded. The conflict between animal existence and the rational world of work, therefore, determines many of Kafka’s animal stories.” (pg. 116)

While Gregor is in this form he escapes the impersonal one, but not self. Even at while being a verminous bug for quite awhile, Gregor still thinks and behave like a human. Gregor’s metamorphosis put him in a position outside of the box where he can view his life outside of really living it. An example, would be like an angel showing one’s future if he or she acted in a certain way. While in this verminous form, Gregor finds the leap that he has been longing for:

“Was he an animal, that music could move him so? He felt as if the way to unknown nourishment he longed for were coming to light.” The self is what is absolutely alien, void, and nonexistent, not only in the world of business but also in the world of the family. Gregor who sacrificed so much to provided for the family, was completely unknown to his family as they thought Gregor was set for life at the firm. They did not know that Gregor hated the job and was only there to repay the debt they had with the boss. It seemed as the after reading The Metamorphosis, that everyone in Gregor’s family were not on the same page. The self in each one of them had there own thoughts that were not shared amongst each other.

Emrich states, “ What, then, is the beetle Samsa? It is obviously something that is felt to be unbearable, alien, and frightening by everyone, including even Gregor Samsa. For even he becomes subject to it and has no choice but to assume a beetle’s mode of life, he is, at first, caught in the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of his former life, and he feels it painful to be no longer able to make himself understood. To be sure, existing as a beetle thrusts him out of everything that he is used to and makes him alien and frightening to everyone. His attachment to the world around him is not thereby diminished, not even the fact that his family’s actual financial circumstances, hitherto kept hidden from him, are now made manifest.” (pg. 126)

Final Change of Gregor’s Personality and Life After The Metamorphosis

As you can see, The Metamorphosis shows how Gregor life changed dramatically after his metamorphosis. The impersonal one in his being always rationalized everything with his work, and never took anything into belief. Gregor’s life was put on under the scope, and one can see that it showed the true colors of his family. The unknown nourishment he longed for, was brought up hearing his sister playing the violin. Finally, Gregor free himself from the empirical world, and dies reconciled with himself and the world.

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The Animal as Liberating “Self” in The Metamorphosis. (2016, Jun 05). Retrieved from

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