Question: Is Kafka in his The Metamorphosis cynical? Give reasons for your answer. Kafka in his The Metamorphosis cynical
Franz Kafka (3 July 1883 – 3 June 1924) expresses the anxiety, inner horror, and cynicism that abound in Gregor’s life. Gregor is the most selfless person throughout the novel. This feature is reflected in his dedication to his work and family.
The key concept of cynicism
Cynicism refers to the belief that people are only interested in themselves and are not sincere. To put it another way, it means the fact of using someone’s feelings or emotions for one’s own benefit.
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Cynical attitude to the business world
Kafka has shown his strong cynicism towards the business world that is based on excessive materialism. Through the character of the chief clerk, the novelist has illustrated the business world from a cynical point of view. We can cite a small passage in which the clerk threatens Gregor and shows his heartlessness.
“However, now when I see how incredibly stubborn you are,
I no longer have the slightest desire to defend you”
It is ridiculous because Gregor was only two hours late and the Clerk is clearly objecting more. At this point, it is clear that a ruthless, narcissistic, and recalcitrant man is the chief clerk. Although he is Gregor’s only co-worker, Kafka uses this character to represent the brutal behavior of society as a whole.
Cynical attitude to the relationship
The main theme of the story is the effect of other’s control on a person such as Gregor’s relationship with his family, and how the people around him controlled his life. Though Gregor is the most unselfish character in the story, his relationships with his family members are bitter. It can be illustrated in the following way:
Relationship between Gregor and Grete: Gregor’s sister Grete plays the most significant role in his life. It is only because he remains all along intimate to his sister. Even when he is transformed into a superbug, he sleeps with his face toward her room. He still remembers that he once promised to send his dear sister to the conservatory. In fact, he suffers more emotional wounds Grete inflicts upon him than from the apple which his father throws at him, which symbolizes a bullet of heartlessness. However, there is clear evidence that his relationship with his sister carries a strong bond, but as she goes against Gregor, Gregor becomes increasingly lonely and shocked. Grete’s brutality and selfishness can be felt from the following passage.
“We must get rid of it” his sister now said exclusively to her father, since her mother was coughing too hard to hear anything. ‘It will be the death of you two. I can see it coming”.
Thus, Grete insists to her parents that they should no more allow going things from bad to worse. She suggests them to realize the gravity of the situation. So, now it is transparent that Kafka is starkly cynical.
Gregor’s relationship with his father: The most unpleasant part of the story ‘The Metamorphosis’ is the relationship between individuals, especially between Gregor and his father. The senior Samsa is tyrannical, selfish, cruel, and has no hesitation to exploit his son. He has no idea that the nature of a person can be deformed by the continued degradation he or she suffers. Soon after Gregor transforms into an insect and ceases to earn for his family, he becomes almost non-existent to his near and dear ones, particularly to his father. However, Gregor’s father is a big hypocrite because he pretends to be sick despite being physically fit. The truth is that his father has far more money than he knows about. Gregor has all along tried to keep his family happy even by selling his soul to the company. Though before Gregor’s transformation his father loved him for money but from the first day of his new life Gregor’s father deals with him brutally. He only believes severest measures are suitable for dealing with him. here we notice that Mr. Samsa does not take any step to cure his son. So, we cannot but say that Kafka is acutely cynical in sketching the father-son relationship.
Cynicism in motherly love and care
There are some points in the story where his family really seems to have taken care of his life and current situation, but it is a so-called care because his family desires to have Gregor as a fit man for work. It is nothing else but a selfish motive. For example, when Gregor’s voice can no longer be understood because of his insect form, his mother becomes worried and instantly calls for a doctor, probably to ensure that her son is fit to be at work. But Gregor does not understand the real motive behind his mother’s new concern, which is that he is late for work.
In the context of the above discussion, it has been crystal clear that Kafka has focused on the hard realities through his cynical attitudes since the world does not pay heed to a useless person and thing. Besides, there is no value of man without having sufficient opportunity for earnings and accumulating wealth. This is the harsh reality of the world.