As many of you are aware, I am a man of few pleasures. The following is a list of the few things in life that make it worth living:
Looking at redheads
Movies/Books with redheads
Beer and/or Vodka
Sleeping with redheads
Talking about all of the above
Unless I am actively engaging in one of these activities, I am generally an unpleasant person. I don’t know why, but I am. Anyway, the point is that I ran out of books to read at work, so I brought an old classic that I have been re-reading all over again, Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories, which consists of everything Kafka has written with the exception of his three excellent novels. Now most casual fans of literature are aware of his famous short story, The Metamorphosis. I happen to enjoy this story very much, although it is not my favorite of what he has written.
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because I just finished reading it again, and I am always fascinated by the juxtaposition of the sacrifice and betrayal that the story deals with, and seeing as how I only have one smart friend that I know of who has even heard of this story, you get to be my students who will be subjugated against your will to the force feeding of my raving and mad opinions. So grab a smoke, a couple beers, and cancel all your appointments for the day, I’m about to get all philosophical on your ass.
The story involves a man named Gregor, who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed as a bug. Although it is never stated what kind of bug he has become, it is hinted (as well as in other Kafka stories) that he is a beetle of some sort. Now Gregor has been working for years to provide for his elderly parents and young sister. Long story short, he turns into a bug, loses his job, his family starts to resent him after taking months of getting used to his new appearance, and then he dies. The family ends up providing for themselves and it is hinted that they will live a decent life. If you can see where this is going, shut up. Don’t ruin it for the others.
Anyway, the story essentially shows two sides of humanity. One side is the sacrificial, loving, and ultimately resentful feelings and actions towards one’s family. Gregor worked everyday, whether sick or healthy, tired or rested, to provide for his family. He paid the rent in their big loft, was going to pay for his little sister to attend a music college, and was also working off his parents debts to his boss. The family, meanwhile, sat back and got used to it. His parents had grown old and tired just by sitting around and living off of Gregor’s hard work. Then, out of nowhere, he wakes up as a bug. Pretty shitty life he was living, but it only got worse.
After realizing what had happened to Gregor, the family tried to deal with him. They couldn’t understand what he was saying, but they did a little to try and accommodate him (mostly his sister, and never his father) and treat him as if he was still part of the family. Then they started growing resentful of him. The parents and his sister had all gotten jobs over the passing months, and he became a hassle, sitting up in his room doing nothing but crawling along the walls. He rarely ate, and could not find a way to communicate with his family. He was suddenly isolated and resented by the family he sacrificed so much for.
You see where this is going; the family tries to find a way to get rid of him, but before they can, Gregor dies of hunger. Now, here is where it becomes, as they say, “Kafka”. It ends with the family moving out, having a little money and being optimistic about their future. They not only don’t mention Gregor or seem thankful for what he has done, but they also do not feel guilty for what they have done. They don’t even give him a fucking funeral! They seem only too happy to be rid of him. Now, here is where the juxtaposition I spoke of comes into play.
Is the family optimistic about their lives now that they are rid of Gregor, or that they have learned how to provide for themselves? And if that is the case, did they not learn that lesson because of Gregor? If Gregor had not provided for them the way that he did, they would have surely starved on the street. However, once they could no longer live off of his hard work, they resented him for what he had become, and in doing so became able (or always were able but never bothered to try) to support themselves. Once Gregor could not provide for them, they hated him for what he had become. He was no longer of any use to them, so they let him starve to appease their own demons with his transformation.
Now, the real question is; what is the lesson to be learned? Is it that if you sacrifice all your life for others, and never for yourself, they will still turn on you once you are no longer of use? Or is what he changed into the reason for all of the negative feelings toward him, and not because of his inability to work? Certainly this would apply in modern times. A large number of family and friends can (and probably will) change their feelings toward a loved one who was gay, in love with a member of another race, or maybe had a disability. This happens all too often, but I don’t think that is Kafka’s point.
What I believe Kafka was trying to show was the darker side of one’s heart. He was trying to say that no matter who you are or what you do for someone, they can resent you for it. Gregor started out helping his family, and he became a burden. He began as a loved son and brother, and became a hated monster. It is not a happy lesson, but it an important one to learn. Anyway, if you read this far, thanks for stickin’ around. I will have more album reviews up Monday and Tuesday.
Will you terrorize this with your perfect lips