The Metamorphosis, written by Franz Kafka in 1912, is a story about a man named Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find that he has transformed into a giant insect. The story uses elements of comedy and irony to explore the human condition. The Metamorphosis is an important work of literature that continues to be relevant today.
What if his family sees him like this? What will happen to him? The novel The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka uses comedy and irony to develop a tragic, cynical view of society and family.
The first instance of irony that I noticed was when Gregor’s sister, Grete, initially shows concern for Gregor after he transformation. The family decides to keep Gregor locked in his room to prevent him from scaring off any potential customers or business associates. Grete brings him food and tries to figure out what he can eat given his new form.
The reader gets the sense that Grete is slowly losing her patience with Gregor as she becomes more burdened by the task of taking care of him. However, there is a moment of irony when Grete says, “It’s really too bad, Gregor. Just as you were getting promoted.” The promotion Gregor was working so hard to achieve is now meaningless given his current state. The second instance of irony occurs when Gregor’s boss, Mr. Lehmann, visits the family to discuss Gregor’s recent absences from work.
Mr. Lehmann tries to downplay the seriousness of Gregor’s condition in order to avoid having to pay him any sort of disability compensation. However, Mr. Lehmann ends up slipping and falling on some bananas that Gregor had been eating and has to be taken to the hospital. The irony here is that Mr. Lehmann, who was trying to save the company money by not having to pay Gregor, ends up costing the company even more money as a result of his accident.
The final instance of irony that I want to discuss is when Gregor’s family decides to move out of their apartment and into a smaller one. The new apartment is in a much worse neighborhood and is significantly smaller than their previous one. The family also decides to get rid of all of the furniture in their old apartment, including Gregor’s bed.
The irony here is that the family is moving into a smaller, more cramped space because of Gregor and yet they are getting rid of his bed, which is where he spends most of his time. The final irony is that, after the family moves out of their old apartment, Gregor dies. The irony here is that, in death, Gregor finally becomes free from the burdens of his life and is able to escape from his family.
The use of comedy and irony in The Metamorphosis allows Kafka to develop a tragic, cynical view of society and family. The characters in the novel are constantly trying to find ways to exploit or take advantage of each other. The family is more concerned with their own financial well-being than they are with Gregor’s welfare.
The only character who seems to genuinely care about Gregor is his sister, Grete. However, even she eventually tires of taking care of him and ends up joining the family in their plot to get rid of him. The novel presents a very bleak view of human nature and leaves the reader with a sense of despair.
Most people would be devastated to find themselves in his position, but he didn’t seem to care much about himself. Instead of panicking, he cursed his job and exclaimed, “If I had not restrained myself for the sake of my parents, I would have quit long ago. I’d have marched up to the boss and spoken my piece from the bottom of my heart,” Well, I haven’t completely given up hope; when I’ve saved enough money to repay my parents’ debt to him, I’m going to make a big break.
The break Gregor makes is not the one he wanted. Franz Kafka uses irony and comedy throughout The Metamorphosis to contrast the tragical events that happen to Gregor Samsa. The story starts off with Gregor waking up late for work and realizing he has turned into a beetle. The use of comedy is shown when Gregor tries to get out of bed and falls on his many legs, “He was startled at how hard it was for him to move; it was as if little nails were being driven into his back and legs”.
The comedic relief eases the tension that is foreshadowing Gregors familys reaction to his new appearance. The second instance where irony is used, is when Gregor returns home from work and his family is waiting for him anxiously. The familys reaction to Gregors physical change is not what Gregor expected, “His mother fainted, his father rushed at him with fists raised”.
“First, he attempted to get out of bed with the lower half of his body, but this lower part—which he had not seen previously and which he could not picture—was too difficult to budge; it was taking so long; and when, almost demented, he lunged ahead with all his might without caring where he was heading or how hard he slammed himself violently against the bottom bedpost.
The use of comedy is also seen when Gregor’s family found out about his transformation, his sister ran to him “to see if he was hurt and whether anything could be done for him. But she drew back at once in complete disgust, turned around hurriedly, almost fell over her father who had jumped up from his chair the moment she started running and now stood in front of her blocking her way, and fled back to the living room”.
The image of a grown woman being disgusted by the sight of a giant beetle and fleeing in terror is quite comical. The irony in this novella is shown when Gregor Samsa wakes up transformed into a giant insect, he thinks to himself “It was no dream”.
The irony lies in the fact that he actually was dreaming, he dreamed of being an insect and waking up to find himself transformed into one. The use of irony is also seen when Gregor’s father tries to kill him with a stick, “He had never hit Gregor so hard before, not even when Gregor, as a child, had been disobedient and not looked after his shoes properly”.
While it was unclear whether or not Kafka truly appreciated the comic angles to a predicament that would otherwise have appeared hopeless, he did appear to appreciate the situation. But it’snotthe metamorphosis itself that matters; it’s how others react. Gregor’s family may not immediately change their attitude toward him and his new form, but they will certainly become strangers over time.
The use of irony is also implemented when Kafka writes about the family forgetting Gregor. The family slowly forgets Gregor as he turns into a bug, but in the end they are the ones who are truly isolated from society. The Metamorphosis can be looked at in different ways, but it is safe to say that Franz Kafka was a genius in his use of dark humor and irony.
Now in this sequence, Gregor runs into the living room and his father starts throwing apples at him to drive him away. This is all because Gregors’ “breakout” from his room caused his mother to faint, as we saw previously. As a result, a large beetle seeks refuge on his tiny legs from the fury of his own father, who is pelting him with fruit. This must be the most heartbreaking portion of the story.
Gregors’ father must have been desperate when he began bombarding him with food; what parent would do such a thing to their own child? This is when the family begins to rebel against Gregor.
The next morning, Gregor is found dead in his room, and the family begins to move on with their lives. The use of comedy and irony is what Franz Kafka does best in The Metamorphosis. It is a book that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. The Metamorphosis is a story about a man who turns into a beetle, but it is also a story about human nature and how we treat those who are different from us.