It is always the desire of each person living to have a fulfilled life where they will live free of worries and anxieties. The steps towards such accomplishments are followed by various actions including working hard in life and even being nice to people. Everybody is usually looking for a secret towards success and once it is unveiled, everything will be done to ensure they get there. However, the definition of success defers from one person to the other and the level of hard work and commitment is not always the same. In an effort to achieve what somebody else has achieved, many people try to walk in similar footsteps, with success or failure. At whatever stage of life, a person is encountered with various challenges yet it is a particular goal that will enable them to either have a positive or negative attitude towards the challenge. Literature has a way of conveying the message using various literature devices. As we discuss in this paper, we shall realize how much some characters tried to achieve their dream of success yet not getting the fulfillment they required. They are encountered with frustrations, which ultimately lead to their death. Our central focus shall be on two major characters of ‘The Metamorphosis’ and ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’. The literal device is symbolism.
Symbolism in the two literature works has been revealed through families that are ungrateful for the little things and keep longing for what is not within reach. They fail to appreciate the fact that they have families that love and care for them and keep looking forward for a change that may never satisfy them. The two young men, Gregor and Paul aspire for a change, something that will positively impart them and subsequently make their families happy. This is spurred from the pressure from their parents always wanting more. Recognizing that they could be the change that the family aspires for, they longed for it not realising that it would be more than they bargained for. They move into a life of fantasy where they believe life is better and that it would make their families feel better. This is a reflection of what most young people go through in their efforts to live better lives and even make their families happy.
The story is also a reflection of the consequences that parents who put their young children into the pressure of success not realising how dire the consequences may become. It is always the desire of each parent to see their children living better lives than they do and even help them out of their situations. Even the richest of families still feel they are not living good lives and that they would love, their children to live even better lives. Parents have their own definition of what they believed was success and would impose it on their children and not allowing them to explore their world and come up with what they believe is good for them.
Gregor was the sole provider of the family and even though he worked hard, there seemed to be a lot more that was required of him. As a man, he knew he had the responsibility to make the dream of the family come true. This however changed within one night when he realised he could not even provide the little that he had been providing for the family. Greogor’s change is a symbol of some of the unexpected misfortunes that a family may encounter that may render them helpless. For instance, we hear of cases where the sole provider of the home is engaged in an accident, dies or is crippled and hence not being able to provide for the family. This becomes tough for the family especially if they had no alternative means of a living. It downs on them that what they got was better even if it was little. This is when they realise how important the sole provider was in the home.
After Gregor metamorphosed, it dawned on the family that what they got from him was better however little it was. For some time, the family was paralysed as they hoped that Grogor would get back to his normal self. As days and weeks passed and there was no hope for him, this is when they resorted to alternative means of income. The helpless nature of Gregor also made him appear a burden and a nuisance to the family. This symbolises the kind of treatment that a person receives when their importance to the family fades. It happens that after a member who was contributing much to the needs of the family is no longer able to and becomes crippled or attached by a sickness, he now becomes a burden. His latter state makes him despised and even ignored by the very people that he helped. Only a few, like Gregor’s sister that will remember such acts of compassion and reciprocate. This situation is likely to frustrate the family that they wish the person dies just to relieve them of the extra burden. Such trying moments also reveal the true colours of one’s friends and family members of whether they truly loved him or it was all about their contributions to group.
Young Paul was not happy about the voices in the house for the need of more money. Even though the family had enough to ensure they lived an average life, their need for more worked negatively on the boy’s psychology. They were probably ignorant of their actions, which ultimately led the little boy into a world of fantasy and subsequently ruining his life. Paul was not comfortable with the frustrations that covered her mother’s face and thought he could do something extraordinary just to please her. It is natural for boys to have so much concern for their mothers that they would do anything just to please them and make them happy. No sane human being would love to see the mother that bore them living in frustration and would hence make any sacrifice just to put that smile on their face.
The inquisitive Paul decided to start from what he believed was the root cause of the problem. He tried all he could to convince his mother that even if his daddy and she were not lucky, she should be happy because he was sure he was lucky. He even used the name of God just to bring such an assurance to her mother with no success, “The boy saw she did not believe him; or rather, that she paid no attention to his assertion. This angered him somewhere, and made him want to compel her attention”. The definition of life is not about what a person has but the attitude they have towards life. Paul thought he would change his mother’s countenance by simply professing what she longed to be. This did not however bear fruit as the mother had believed in her heart that because her husband was unlucky, so the whole family was unlucky (Lawrence 73). Such an attitude prevented her to appreciate some of the good things that life gave her like a good family and at least a meal for each day. The problem was therefore not her family being lucky but rather her believe that they will never be lucky.
The attitude we have towards life will determine how we respond to issues around us and ultimately change our destination. Most of the people who are frustrated have believed in a lie that they cannot make it in life. This is most probably because of their experiences or the circumstances they face. Having an attitude, whether positive or negative will blind one from perceiving the setbacks or breakthroughs that come with life. A person becomes sunk in their attitudes that nothing will make them change their outlook towards life. It is always better when a person has a positive attitude because they will not pay much attention to the challenges that come with life. Unfortunately, most people in world are more pessimistic that they fail to see the good in any bad situation. This is the same theory that explains why there are few genuinely successful people in the world than there are unsuccessful.
In most cases, the unsuccessful will simply envy the successful thinking that they were born with luck. They fail to recognize that fact that such people are living in similar challenging environments yet they choose to face life with a positive attitude. Paul’s mother believed that her husband was born unlucky and that there was nothing that could be done to change their status as a family. On the other hand, she also believed that the uncle was born lucky and that is why he was wealthier than they were. Paul did not quite understand this but felt it was a matter of attitude. His determination to change the attitude of the mother did not stop as he resorted to a world of fantasy and gambling just to prove a point to her frustrated mother with no success. Paul is a symbol of some of the frustrations that concerned people go through just to prove to those they love that there is no problem with their environment but rather with their attitude.
Gregor metamorphosed within a night and it was a shock not only to him but also to his family. There was however hope that he would be normal after some few days. When all hope was lost, he heard to adjust to the fact that he was no longer human but an insect and therefore live as one. This is a sign of desperation that many people find themselves into. There is always a limit to a person’s expectations and when they realise that they cannot meet them, they start adjusting to their status. This may be viewed both positively and negatively depending on the attitude a person has. This may be a point of satisfaction for the optimistic yet a point of despair for the pessimist. A person is always encouraged to set high standards for their lives yet to be wise enough to appreciate the little joys that come with life. Irrespective of high the standards are, one should always remain open minded and not put all hopes on them just in case they fail to bear fruit.
On the other hand, a person should not despair in life to the level that they feel they will never grow beyond their status. Settling for little implies that one has stopped putting on any efforts to succeed or become better. This is a point where a person surrenders to fate and losses all hope for a better life. This is a dangerous place to be as it leads to complacency and more frustrations. One is likely to regret and feel bad about themselves and thinking of how unlucky they are. Gregor had reached a point where he surrendered to fate. True to his thoughts, he remained an insect and become a nuisance to the family members. They became fed up of him as they could not see any importance in him ( Kafka 89). This was revealed more especially when he died and instead of people mourning over him, they were relieved because the burden had been lifted off their shoulders. This is what was said when the family realised he was dead “"Now then", said Mr. Samsa, "let's give thanks to God for that"”
His death was unfortunately a sad turn of events to a person that was once productive to the family. In the world, a person is mostly valued by how he ends his journey rather than how he started it. This is because the human mind has been designed to forget the past good deeds and instead remember all the bad deeds. It has also become normal, especially in the modern society for one to be valued by what they contribute to the society rather than what they take away from it. A person who is always taking away and never giving back will ultimately be a nuisance. There is a limit to human patience, which is usually tested by long-suffering. Gregor’s family could only assist him for a certain period but once his situation became normal for them, they also felt the need of moving on with their lives and hence ignoring him.
Little Paul died in his frustrations to make his mother understand that he was born lucky. It is unfortunate that even on his deathbed, there was all evidence to prove that he was lucky when it was revealed how much money he had made from gambling. His birthday gift to his mother went unnoticed and unappreciated as the mother still craved for more money. She had even forgotten all about what Paul had told her about him being lucky. The little boy cried, out the day before he died, “Mother, did I ever tell you? I am lucky!" "No, you never did," said his mother.” Changing an attitude that has been deep rooted in a person’s life can be so frustrating. It is unfortunate that the mother was sensitive enough to know that his son had a problem yet he could not figure out the fact that she was the source of such problems (Gallagher 132). This is most probably because she was engrossed in her poverty mentality that she cared less about the welfare of her family. She did not even understand the abrupt passion that Paul had developed towards horses and why he rocked a small lifeless horse. “So the child cried, trying to get up and urge the rocking-horse that gave him his inspiration. "What does he mean by Malabar?" asked the heart-frozen mother.’
Gregor’s parents and employer did not also realise that they were suing their son as an income-generating machine rather than a member of the family. Gregor’s life was never his own until when he was at a helpless position. Gregor knew this very well and that is why in his new status, Gregor did not bother much about the fact that he was an insect, but rather that he was not able to go to work and provide for his family. His employee on the other hand did not seek to find out what had happened to Gregor and probably offer some help but simply issued threats. The clerk said, “You fail to carry out your business duties in a way that is quite unheard of” None of his close allies dared to seek a lasting solution for Gregor’s problem but let him suffer. It would have been expected that they tried seeking some medical assistance just to ensure they are playing their part in making him completely again. This is a true evidence of a society that will only cling to someone for how they benefit from them.
Symbolism in the true literatures has proved to be an important tool in revealing the evils that are facing the society and how it can be dealt with. A society can never be complete without several people that compose families. However, some of the little acts we neglect can breed a negative society where people only care about their individual needs rather than those of others. Most of the individuals that strive to bring change in the society just like Paul end up dying in frustrations simply because someone they loved and cared for failed to realise their efforts. It is a high time we choose to forget about our feelings and for some moments be considerate of how others feel towards our actions or us. Having an accountability towards each other will not only ensure we raise happy families but also fulfilled societies.
Gallagher, David. Metamorphosis: Transformations of the Body and the Influence of Ovid's Metamorphoses on Germanic Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. New York: Rodopi, 2009. < http://www.drdavidgallagher.co.uk/Gisbertz.pdf >
Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Cricket House Books LLC, 2012. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5200/5200-h/5200-h.htm>
Lawrence, D. H. The Rocking-Horse Winner. London: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. <http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/rockwinr.html>