Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis concerns a traveling salesmen named Gregor Samsa who [awakens] from unsettling dreams one morning and [finds] himself transformed into a monstrous vermin (Kafka 7). Gregor is late for work, and he gripes about his joyless job; he declares if I were not holding back because of my parents, I would have quit long ago (8). His family tries to awaken him so he may yet be on time. A clerk from his job arrives to check on him, driving Gregor to open his door and reveal his transformed state. All are repulsed, and the clerk flees the house in horror. Gregor understands his family perfectly, but his family cannot comprehend his speech and do not realize he understands what they say. Gregor's sister Grete is the most sympathetic, cleaning his room and offering him food. His mother falls ill with anguish and his father exhibits violent outbursts, wounding Gregor beyond recuperation with a thrown apple. Gregor confines himself to his room, decaying.
[...] Gregor's isolation and sudden realization of his shows that this is a desire to be completely removed from the human circle. Since Gregor's death is somewhat spiritually inconclusive, his “nourishment” cannot be truly identified unless it is assumed that he receives it prior to his death. Therefore, evidence in support of the claim that he does indeed receive it must be found. To this end, it is necessary to describe observable conditions which indicate that Gregor has received nourishment. In other words, what kind of spiritual, emotional, or physical changes or reconciliations must be evident in Gregor in order to conclusively state that he has been “nourished?” The answer to this question lies in the first part of the novella, when details of Gregor's irreconciliation with the “guilt-world that inhabits” (Greenberg 21) are given. [...]
[...] In dying, Gregor is “nourishing” himself spiritually because total separation from the “work-world of the impersonal (Emrich 123) is what his soul requires for salvation. From the encounter with the boarders, his family's eventual neglect of him, and Grete's wish that he die, Gregor is aware that his death will “nourish” his family as well by allowing them to move on. In essence, Gregor recognizes that meaning of his metamorphosis contains some sort of positive possibility” (Greenberg which is the possibility of life in death. [...]
[...] He is only able to be nourished after he finally stops struggling and to the yoke of the metaphor that he has been trying to shake (Greenberg 27) Eventually, Gregor ceases his attempts to reenter the human circle, and he accepts his fate: feels a hunger that can only be felt in full acceptance of his outcast state” (Greenberg 27). Gregor totally accepts the truth of both his family relationships and his own spiritual death, and he dies fully reconciled. [...]
[...] Gregor's first impulse is to return to the familiar world of the “impersonal (Emrich 121), while his “‘irremovable' self” (Emrich 121) longs for freedom, requiring the “nourishment” of total isolation in order to be fully expressed. Emrich describes a kind of “spiritual struggle” in which Gregor's inner self bursts forth in beetle-form in order to oust the public self (Emrich 121). In this way, Emrich's interpretation appears to characterize Gregor's as the desire of Gregor's suppressed, true self to emerge and rescue him from his false life. [...]
[...] In his essay “Gregor Samsa and Modern Spirituality,” Martin Greenberg asserts that Gregor's occurs at the outset of the novella: first sentence of The Metamorphosis announces Gregor Samsa's death and the rest of the story is his slow dying” (20). Furthermore, Greenberg states that Gregor undergoes a “spiritually inconclusive petering throughout the work's course. Hence, this “spiritual starvation” is the cause of Gregor's and the “nourishment” he seeks is spiritual. In Greenberg's analysis, it is certain that Gregor perishes from a drawn out “spiritual hunger” without ever receiving “nourishment.” In short, Greenberg believes Gregor's death is the inevitable result of a prolonged failure to be “nourished.” On the other hand, Wilhelm Emrich's essay Animal as Liberating ‘Self'” is an example of a more optimistic view of Gregor's death. [...]
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