One of the most complicated questions to answer in human behaviour is how a person becomes who he or she is. In this context, the main problem is in identifying the difference between inborn inclinations of an individual and subsequent influence of the surrounding environment of living. From one point scientists argue that the answer to who we are is in our genes and DNA chains, and we cannot go beyond what our DNA has programmed us to be capable of. From another point of view, we are what are made by totality of factors. Among these factors are our family upbringing, childhood experiences with other people, adolescence and general correlation with the wider society, in other words, people make us who we are. In this context, the inner self has to face the image created by other people and society in general. In other words, out inner inclinations can be stimulated by the outer world though the way people see us. Some people with string will manage to overcome social selves and keep their inner world and personal self relatively untouched by external factors, those who are weaker often end up victims of circumstances and social pressure. They allow the external world dictate whom and what they should be irrespective of their inner self and inborn inclinations. In his story "Metamorphosis", Franz Kafka showed how an individual can be broken by the pressure of external factors and dissolve within society's opinion about him and perception of his role in that society. The main argument of this essay is that the totality of external factors resulted in the fact that an individual, Gregor Samsa, was so suppressed by his way of life that he ceased to be a human being in his eyes, and simply turned into a bug, just as he was seen by the rest of the word. Although, in the story, the meaning of this metamorphosis is literal, the message of the author is about inner breakdown of an individual.
The central passage, which shall be analysed in order to explain this thesis, is not the whole story, but just the first few pages of the story, when Gregor actually is shown in his new form. As further analysis will show, during the close reading of the suggested passages the main attention is paid to Gregor's self-perception and subsequent ideas about the external world, which brought him to that condition. The most distinctive feature of the inner emptiness and humility was the way he perceived his transformation. The author writes:
"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he
discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug"
(Kafka 1999, p. 3).
It is not only that the author described in a calm, matter-of-fact way, but rather he simply reflects the perception of the main hero, who does not freak out or starts screaming, but simply asks "What's happened to me" (p. 3). Then he thinks about the proportions of his body in respect to the size of the room and then looks through the window to see what the weather was like. At this point instead of thinking of his physical condition and what was wrong with him, Gregor was preoccupied with the fact that he could not sleep any longer, as if nothing happened, and it all was just a dream:
"Why don't I keep sleeping for a little while longer and forget all this
foolishness" (Kafka 1999, p.4).
His excuse for his physical condition is not even a bad dream or hallucinations, but rather simple foolishness; as if he was thinking about something strange, and it was just a stupid thought he had to deal with rather than an actual physical condition. He does not act as a person that experiences something new and weird, it is as if he is accustomed to this state and that it is simply a matter of a certain inconvenience, which at that moment, was an inability to lie on his favourite side, in order to fall asleep:
"But this was entirely impractical, for he was used to sleeping on his right side,
and in his present state he couldn't get himself into this position"
(Kafka 1999, p. 4)
In this regard, it can be argued that although Gregor experiences some physical inconveniences of his state, he has accepted it internally long ago. In this regard, the author writes that Gregor "must have tried it hundred times, closing his eyes, so that he would not have to see the wriggling legs" (Kafka 1999, p.4) In this context, the closing of eyes is not simply about not seeing his physical condition, it is not even a sign of denial, but rather a metaphor for his acceptance and agreement to be whom he is viewed by a wider society. His physical change is actually his inner acceptance of what people think and see when they look at him. He tried to deny and close his eyes hundreds of times before in order not to see what other people were seeing, but that morning he simply lost himself entirely to the social perception. He could not care less for his physical condition than that morning. Although he felt a dull pain in his side, all what he could think about his social functions in the context of work and family obligations, in other words, his social role rather than his actual human existence. On the other hand, he was no longer a human being, in a physical sense. Probably, exactly this acceptance and physical transformation into a bug he became, final gave him an opportunity to express what he wanted to say before:
"'O God,' he thought, 'what a demanding job I've chosen! Day in, day out on
the road. The stresses of trade are much greater than the work going on at
head office, and in addition to that, I have to deal with the problems To hell
with it all!' This getting up early makes a man quite idiotic"
(Kafka 1999, p. 4-5)
This paragraph is particularly important because it shows a certain degree of rebellion of an inner self against what has happened and actual personal breakdown and submission to the external environment. On the other hand, it is not the inner strength of a person to survive and oppose suppression of one's identity, it is not a will to preserve the independence. It was way too late for that. Gregor was not strong enough to do it in time, and what we observe in his bickering about his job and place in the society is simply an echo of what was once an independent inner self, that was capable of feelings and sacrifices for the beloved ones. In this context, we see self-pity, but no further actions for the actual rebellion and a desire to disobey. Even if Gregor had ever been capable of disobeying his social role, he had no more opportunities to do it, because he obeyed what he was given, he actually became what he was considered to be by his society - a huge verminous bug. He was broken inside, and he no longer could hide it, so his physical appearance corresponded to his inner self-perception imposed by society's treatment of him as a bug. This small rebellion becomes even more ridiculous when Gregor argues that he actually could challenge his boss and get fired, but immediately retreats since he has duties and he is not sure what whether it would be good for him:
"Still, who knows whether that mightn't be really good for me. If I didn't hold
back for my parent's sake, I would've quit ages ago" (Kafka 1999, p. 5)
Although we know that Gregor is working in order to look after his parents, they are also an excuse for him not to stand for himself and not to rebel against the outer society. From one perspective, it is a certain sense of duty that makes him do what he hates the most and stay on that job. In this context, it may seem that he is strong enough to withstand pain from the outer world and become what the world wants him to be, because of the sense of duty towards his parents and necessity to earn money to look after them. On the other hand, the reality is entirely different. His parents were the cause for his role in society, and the reason why he had no will at all. By imposing the role of money maker who had only duties over his parents and sister, and no personal obligations towards himself as a human being, his parents literally made a bug out of him. It was his father's strong and authoritarian will which hammered Gregor down to the ground and made him crawl like a bug in order to deserve father approval, which was never the case. Therefore, his driving force for submission to social pressure and agreement to do the work he hated was conditioned not by the sense of duty towards his family but the fear towards his father. He had no strengths to decide for himself; everything was conditioned by his family:
"Once I've got together the money to pay off the parent's debt to him - that
should take another five or six years - I'll do it for sure." (Kafka 1999, p. 5)
His moment of triumph was then interrupted by his social duties of going to work and further following of his bug life. In an instant, he began thinking about his missed train, how to catch the next one, unpacked samples for his job and the fact that he was not allowed to say he as sick, because that would be embracing and strange (Kafka 1999, p. 6). This passage again shows that Gregor did not think of himself as an independent human being or a human being at all. Although he tried to show some sort of inner rejection of what was happening, it was rather the matter of self-pity and inability to change anything, rather than a strong voice of individualism. The reason why Gregor was no longer in the human shape, was because he stopped considering himself to be a human being, but a social creature, which in the eyes of society was nothing but a huge bug which could be humiliated in any possible way. So, he made it even easier for society and his family - he became the bug they saw in him anyway. In other words, he accepted his fate and simply gave up to it.
Overall, from all mentioned above, it can be concluded that, on the example of symbolical metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa, Franz Kafka showed complete dissolution of an individual in the external environment, under the constant influence of unhealthy family environment, which made Gregor a simple insect rejected by his family and society alike. In this context, Kafka showed that it might not depend largely on individual how he struggles with life, the combination of factors might be so overwhelming, that an individual might be simply incapable of changing anything, and would inevitably have to submit to the common will, sacrificing his own instead.
Kafka Franz (1999). The Metamorphosis. Retrieved from http://history-