Run-on Sentence Summary
Kafka’s classic absurdist novel about poverty and existential despair through the lens of a man suddenly transformed into a bug.
“ONE MORNING, WHEN GREGOR Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.”
Kafka’s dark novel is iconic because it captures the predicament of the modern man. Despite discovering that he is this vile creature, Gregor’s thoughts are of his boss, and to the end he is focused on fulfilling his responsibilities and not being too much of a burden. Each character in the novel is similarly preoccupied, such as when the tenants, upon discovering that they are living with this horrible monster, are primarily concerned with getting out of paying the rent.
The novel has been infinitely picked apart, and english teachers love to debate how literally it should be interpreted. Is Gregor really a bug, or is the story an allegory for schizophrenia or simply illness in general? The translation is intentionally vague, and the first cover of the book deliberately doesn’t feature an image of an insect.
To me, it seems a bit beside the point. Clearly, the story isn’t really about being a bug, but about living under the yoke of poverty, in all it’s mind-killing oppression. You want to reach through the pages and shake the people, trying to get them to snap out of it and think about what really matters to them.
Spoilers. The book pulled a fast one on me at the end. The poor, old, world-wise charwoman (a great old-timey word that you only get to learn from reading crap like this) is the only person in the story not immediately repulsed by Gregor’s appearance. You are filled with hope that she’ll break through and start communicating with him, and maybe show some common sense or decency.
However, with Gregor’s pointless death her primary goal is to please the family and ensure the hasty removal of the body. Kafka’s point seems to be that living under such weight through a long life can just as easily bring callous numbness as it can wisdom or compassion.
I read it in one sitting and was left slightly shaken and filled with some vague existential dread, so, maybe thats good? I like it because it makes you take a hard look at yourself.
“The main thing holding the family back from their decision to move was much more to do with their total despair, and the thought that they had been struck with a misfortune unlike anything experienced by anyone else they knew or were related to. They carried out absolutely everything that the world expects from poor people, Gregor’s father brought bank employees their breakfast, his mother sacrificed herself by washing clothes for strangers, his sister ran back and forth behind her desk at the behest of the customers, but they just did not have the strength to do any more."