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The depiction of the man-turned-insect and his descent into oblivion is less than pleasant, much like the description of the narrow, deserted streets in Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." In the description of the insect and the city in each work respectively, no details are given but the negative ones.
In the case of Eliot's work, Prufrock is unable to find a confidence in himself and even seems resigned that life will just do what it will with him. As the narrator describes his bald spot as noticeable enough for the women to make a remark about it, but constantly asking again and again, "How shall I presume?"
In both "Love Song" and "Metamorphosis," the narrators of the story seem to view themselves as less than worthy and capable. When Gregor is turned into a bug, his family is disgusted at the thought of him and tries with all their might to keep him locked up and out of sight. His sister Grete even exclaims, "We must try to get rid of it" (Kafka). When he finally dies, Gregor's family does not mourn for him. As a matter of fact, hey begin to make plans for their daughter's future.
It is possible that Kafka's story is reflective of the alienation that he feels is prevalent in modern society (Bader). The description of the alienation that Gregor feels is almost heartbreaking. His family does everything in their power to keep him confined to their room, because they can't stand the sight of his insect body. They even go so far as to conclude that Gregor isn't in the cockroach body, and that the cockroach has taken over their boy. This would account for the lack of mourning and the quick ability to look into the future once the Gregor-turned-insect finally goes back into his room and dies there.
What does this say about Kafka's view toward life? It is very similar to the one that Eliot seems to have if his description of the streets and the people in it are any indication. He compares men to "etherized patients lying on a table," and describes the streets as "narrow" and "deserted." He may feel as if man is left to fend for himself in today's world, although it is a cruel one.
The depiction of Gregor's situation displays a similar viewpoint. Having mysteriously turned into a cockroach, Gregor could certainly use the love and support of his family and friends. Instead, he is completely isolated and left to fend for himself. Neither man has written characters who seem to have a positive attitude toward their life and the people in it.
There are other themes worth exploring, as well. While Gregor is an ugly creature in "The Metamorphosis," it is also apparent that he is not the only ugliness in the story. There is also a great deal of ugliness in the way his family treats him, even to the point that they would talk of getting rid of him and not care when he dies. The change is excruciating to Gregor, and that is where the writer puts the most emphasis (Snook).
For Kafka, it is about exploring who he is and what he likes to when he's not being molded by society. In response, his family shuns him. They throw apples at him and poke him with broomsticks, causing him wounds (Kafka). This attitude toward the would-be reaction of a family who has had a member suddenly turned into an insect may be evident of an attitude that Kafka has toward society, believing that if he is and does what he is most comfortable with, he will be shunned and disregarded. Kafka believes that if one were to show their true self in public, they would be humiliated or even harmed (Snook).
Bloom, Harold. "Thematic Analysis of "The Love Song of J. Alfred
Bloom's Major Poets 1999: 17-20. Web. 4 Dec 2010.
Dod, Susan Marie. "We must try to get rid of it": The Grotesque and the Sublime in Kafka's "The
Metamorphosis" International Journal of the Humanities 6.1 (2008): 157-164. Web. 6 Dec
Eliot, T.S. The Love Song of J. Alfred Purfrock. 1917. Print.
Snook, J. "The Metamorphosis." Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition 2009: n. pag.
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