When you become a stranger in your own home: the sad Jahan of Franz Kafka.
By Ania Perveen
We can learn a Duniya of complexities from Kafka. His writings are the crude diagnosis of current circumstances. Even though he is a literary man, his writings reflect the political turmoil and confusion of this bumptious and bureaucratic era. American poet W.H Auden writes about Kafka that Kafka is important because his predicament is the predicament of modern man. And the hallmark of modern man is confusion, uncertainty and irresolution.
The longish short-story, namely The Metamorphosis, is written by German-language writer of visionary fiction, Franz Kafka. He is renowned for two of his grand works, to wit The Trial, which is a novel, and The Metamorphosis. Just imagine how life would be if your safest place, your comfort zone turns into a scary place of a dreary aura. Most of us, beyond a shadow of doubt, consider our homes the safest place to reside, the place where you feel guarded, secured and sheltered. What if this place starts betraying you, what if the people around you who were once your courage, strength and driving force, break your soul, pierce your heart, and abandon you just like a useless broken machine.
This book, The Metamorphosis, portrays the crude realities of our society. Tragically, our world has become perfectionist, and it would not be wrong to utter that this world has, to a disgusting extent, has become, self-seeking, self-centered and self-interested. It will break off all knots of relations, bondings and feelings once you are no longer a perfect and affluent human being. You need to live up to the expectations of people to get yourself considered worthy.
This amazing book is about a hard-working man who thinks he has a freightage of responsibilities on his shoulders. His name is Gregor Samsa. His responsibilities are enormous; paying off parent’s debt, wanting to send his sister to the conservatory, even though it was too expensive, and ensuring a good life for his parents. For all these he was working on his toe-tips every day. He usually thought, ‘’ what a strenuous career it is that I have chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business like this takes much more effort than doing your own business at home, and on top of that there is the curse of travelling, worries about train connection, bad and irregular food.
‘’ As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed into a gigantic vermin.’’ With this dreary line begins The Metamorphosis giving our mind concussions. This is the moment, in fact his maiden step on a horrific journey which later discloses a plethora of dark secrets and soul-crushing realities to him. To figure out what has happened to him, what is this frightful transformation all about, and to clear out the lingering situation between reality and uneasy dreams he lifted his head a little. Now he could partly see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections, his many legs which were pitifully thin waving about helplessly while he was battling to comprehend this odd and weird form of himself. Peering around his room, he was still in a proper human room in his own room where he could see a collection of textile samples strewn on the table, a picture hanging on the wall.
All at once, suddenly he heard a huge bang on the door. One by one all his family members careened into the room. His mother, sister and father were vehemently calling him that he is getting late for the train and he has to reach the office timely. But Gregor is helpless. In a bid to remove confusion he uttered some words which were not understandable due to the clogs in his throat, as he was now an insect. His family had this premonition that he might be ill or unwell. All the while Gregor was struggling to move. He suddenly heard the voice of his office manager who was inveighing that Gregor is late and why has not shown up yet at the office. Eventually after exhausting endeavours he manages to unlock the door. Everyone gets desperately horrified by Gregor’s appearance, seeing this office manager get out of the apartment and Gregor calls him to wait but his father shoves him into the room and slams the door in a thud.
Before embarking upon Gregor’s gloony journey, I would like to quote the heart-cracking lines of Kafka which will give you a perspective about the turmoil which has got its inception in Gregor’s life. Kafka writes, ‘’ I cannot make you understand what is happening inside me. I cannot explain it to myself.’’ Ah ! This melancholy is heart-wrenchingly sad. Gregor who was combating his conversion initially receives the love and care of his family. Greta, his sister, usually comes in the room carrying a tray of food for him, cleans his room. But as the time wore on, this love and care dissipated and he was treated like a burden. The atmosphere of his home was now commandeered by grief and sadness.
Gregor, who was anxious to know what his family is talking about and how they are doing, tries to peek inside the lawn and forces his tiny cavity to hear their words. There were times when he became too tired of listening. Their conversations more often than not revolved around the financial crisis as Gregor was no longer earning. Nobody was understanding him. Nobody even his mother and sister who were very dear to him. He was awaiting someone to share his miseries but no one came to take him out of this mess and give him some peace. Everyone was stuck and busy with their own problems.
One day, the harsh reality unveiled, the harsh reality was Gregor no longer held any importance to his family and was thought a burden to be dispensed with. The three gentlemen who were living on rent discovered that a vermin was living in this house. On this, they vehemently protested and proclaimed they would leave the house if the insect was there. They announced they would not pay their rent as the situation in the house was miserable and did not merit any rent. This was the precise moment which vanished the importance of Gregor in his family’s heart. This was the instant that Gregor realized that his family had turned their backs on him and he would be disposed of by and by. His sister who used to be his caretaker suddenly yelped at him and called him a monster and coaxed his parents to get rid of him. With great grief and despair Gregor saunters to his room.
One day Gregor Samsa shuffles off this mortal coil eternally. His family leaves this house and settles somewhere else. So this was the sad story of a man who in one morning wakes him and finds he is an insect. This book is not illustrating a story of a vermin but brutal and cruel behavior of not just society but our family as well. People may disagree with me but imagine how long a family nourishes and pampers a person who is handicapped or disfigured like our Gregor Samsa. Our society has grown roots of selfishness and self-centeredness so much so that they have reached the core of earth and we cannot break them off. Just take a gander at who is more respectful in our sorry society. The one who is affluent and has lots of money receives the utmost homage and respect, not out of sheer love but in return getting money and benefit.
Now let’s narrow down the horizon and open your eyes to inspect who is more respectable in our family? Again the one who is fetching up more bucks. All in all, I want to quote the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes to let you know how there is a dark spectrum of human beings which is usually hidden from our sight. He writes, ‘’ man is essentially selfish, egoistic and self-seeking. The sole motive of all his actions is the satisfaction of his own desires and appetites at the expense of others desires and needs. ‘’
In a nutshell, vermin was just a metaphor used by Kafka. Just like the family of Gregor, who piecemeal forgets the existence of him and considers him a mere insect. Finally they want to get rid of him. Same situation could be applied to our society where people who are not productive are treated as nobody and considered nothing. Just like dark huge clouds which pour their tiny droplets on barren and thirty deserts. Sweltering summer, gentle, cool breeze brings warmth with it. Then why we humans can’t bring happiness to people who have no worth. Why do we not bring smiles to gloomy faces inasmuch as we ourselves have enormous feelings. Can’t we light a candle in someone’s darkness? Yes, we can. What we need is willpower. Life is like a bubble of soup. It can burst any time. So it is better to love, respect and care than bring pain, misery and anxiety.