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The first chapter of the Metamorphosis is full of meaningful symbols that contribute through the rest of the book. The tone of the text is set in the very beginning and is recurring in the first chapter. The narrator’s human lonesome life is also explained in this section of the text. The idea of absurdism is scattered throughout the work as the theme of the book starts to settle.
The tone of Metamorphosis is defined in the beginning of the book. In the opening line, Gregor discovers that he had become a giant insect. Kafka says, “One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin” (Kafka 1). The line describes the unnatural event of Gregor transforming into an insect in a solemn, painless manner. The narrator describes the situation to be ordinary, rather than an astounding problem. This created the sense that the narrator anticipates the world to be absurd and disorderly, rather than judicious and shrewd.
Gregor absorbs this absurdist tone from the beginning. When he first notices his transformation, he is not completely alarmed by it, Gregor treated it as a normal sleep disturbance, as if it wasn’t out of the ordinary. He continues with his absurdist mindset as the story continues.
Also in this chapter, Gregor’s human life is explained, as well as the alienation towards him from the the other characters. Gregor begins to think of his job as a traveling salesman as he lies in bed, unable to walk. He only continues with this job because of the debt his parents have.
Furthermore, since he must always be traveling, Gregor’s friendships he makes during his work are only casual and never close. Kafka says, “…he’s been in town for a week now but stayed home every evening. He sits with us in the kitchen and just reads the paper or studies train timetables” (Kafka 9). This quote by Gregor’s mom suggests that Gregor already lives his life mainly in isolation. Now, Gregor is not a physical human anymore. In this new skin, he is unable to get out of bed, and his voice is different so he cannot even communicate with the people around him. In addition, when the door is opened and the manager as well his family members see him, they are terrified. These details foreshadow that Gregor’s absence from other people’s lives will grow and grow.
In summation, the first chapter of Metamorphosis is full of symbolic examples of absurdism. The tone of the work is portrayed in the beginning and is set for the rest of the book. The narrator’s human life is also explained, telling the readers his lonesomeness throughout the story.
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