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Investigating Madness Within Power Structures

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  1. Introduction
  2. Personal freedom within the mind
  3. Turning points where the family turns on him
  4. Determining whether or not he is well or even sane
  5. The loss of individuality
  6. Gregor's submission even as he is turned upon
  7. Gregor's family's showing him a great deal of disrespect
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

Kafka's The Metamorphosis is full of power structures that dictate the actions of each character. Each character finds him or herself in a role of accountability and responsibility that dictates how he or she acts, particularly towards other characters. Gregor, for instance, is accountable to his boss and has a certain amount of responsibilities that arise from his duties. His boss is accountable to a larger abstract conglomerate of higher-ups who represent the larger of the company that he and Gregor work for. In this manner his responsibilities create for him a role he must maintain in order to keep Gregor in check. These are two examples of many power dynamics between characters. These two dynamics however are good examples of the work-place power structure. In The Metamorphosis this structure includes employers, employees, debtors, and familial relations dependant upon the structure's income. Within this structure one finds it difficult to maintain a sense of agency when so much of each character's action is dependant upon his or her ability to maintain status in the power structure which supports his or her life. In studying madness, a common thread found in determining madness is one's inability to pursue one's own agency. This is not simply to say that madness is found when external forces dictate what one is able to do in life. What this really means is that one has agency?something that one does or plans to do and is clearly in his or her best interest?but acts against it because of some sort of irritating force. In ?The Metamorphosis? it is clear that the financial power structure has such a gripping hold on the characters that it is this structure which brings the characters to act against their own best interests.The most obvious instance of submission comes from Gregor. He is placed on the lowest rung of the power structure because of who he is accountable to and responsible for. He is under the power of his family because he works for their income. He is under the power of his boss because his boss is the source of the Samsa income.

key words- Samsa, Brian Danoff, Hannah Arendt,

[...] The narrator describes Gregor's thoughts: ?Gregor tried to imagine whether something like what had happened to him today could one day happen even to the manager.? (Kafka This demonstrates further how at one point, even in the condition of wage slavery, Gregor had his own free individual thoughts. These, however, are all thoughts he had before he became a vermin. It is not until he becomes unable to fulfill his duties to his family that he becomes accountable to them instead of responsible for them. [...]

[...] (Arendt 438) The relevance that this loss of individuality has to madness within power structures is that the loss of individuality is a loss of agency. Arendt often points to concentration camp prisoners who march willfully into gas chambers?at least to the point where they use their own legs to reach the chamber as opposed to being physically lifted off the ground and placed, for example. (Arendt 438) Gregor's situation cannot be compared entirely to that of prisoners because while they both comply with a higher power that they would prefer to not comply with, Gregor complies based upon agency?his decision to help his family. [...]

[...] This particular power dynamic between him and his family does not necessarily result in madness because Gregor finds that he is still in control of handling a situation that he has consensually put himself into. Though he never gets the opportunity, Gregor makes another free will decision by dedicating himself to paying for his sister's violin lessons at a university. In this offer he goes as far as to deviate from his immediate consensually duty of paying off debt. Through the love he has established towards his family the reader grows to understand his goals in life, his priorities, and his interests. [...]

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