Marxist Criticism Of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

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Marxist Criticism of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis follows the psychological downfall of a travelling salesman, Gregor Samsa, who loses everything but his subconscious after transforming into a vermin. The novella is the epitome of ontological magic realism, where Gregor’s surreal metamorphosis is described in a flat, matter-of-fact tone; but a reading through the lens of Marxist literary criticism reveals Kafka’s social commentary on capitalist societies. Kafka uses the metamorphosis as a symbol of Gregor’s succumbence to familial and social pressure, as it removes his responsibilities and his spine and takes away his ability to work. Hence, Gregor’s gradual undoing illustrates the results of a worker’s inability
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The bourgeoisie are “owners of the means of social-production and employers of wage-labour,” and the character which fits this category best is Gregor’s manager (Marx, 21). He appears soon after the readers are told that Gregor is late for the train, and is impersonal, insensitive, and demanding. The absence of the manager’s name also suggests his lack of humanity. “Your performance of late has been very unsatisfactory; I know it is not the best season for doing business… but a season for not doing any business, there is no such thing” (Kafka, 11). Rather than showing care towards Gregor’s well-being, the manager is concerned about the production of his workers. Gregor makes a remark on the manager’s presence: “Really, wouldn’t it have been enough to send one of the apprentices to find out… did the manager himself have to come[?]” (Kafka, 9). Gregor also says that the manager "sits on the desk and talks down from the heights to the employees" (Kafka, 4). Because the manager has no labour of his own to perform, he has the time to reprimand his workers and flaunt his advanced economic position. Kafka’s portrays the manager as unpleasant figure, and in this way, makes us sympathise with the proletarian insect Gregor rather than the bourgeois human…show more content…
Having been abandoned by his employer, Gregor’s relationship with his family gradually deteriorates. “The bourgeoisie… has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation” (Marx, 8). Gregor is the only labourer in his family, and the rest his family are mere consumers of Gregor’s production. Now that Gregor is unable to financially support them, a deep rift between Gregor and his family is created. This is particularly clear in the severed relationship between Gregor and his father. Gregor’s father’s reaction after seeing his transformed son is to “seize in his right hand the manager’s cane… and stamping his feet, started brandishing the cane… to drive Gregor back into his room” (Kafka, 18). When Gregor is stuck and is unable to go through the door, with “one of his flanks... scraped raw, ugly blotches marred the white door,” his father gave him “a hard shove… and bleeding profusely, [Gregor] flew far into his room” (Kafka, 19). Despite having spent years working a job he hated to pay off his father’s debts, Gregor is quickly discarded by his father as soon as he can no longer earn
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