Existentialism is the idea that each individual influences their own life; the individual person is unbound and liable for their personal improvement through their own actions. Kafka’s story was, and is, popular and relevant because of his explanation of the human condition through philosophy and psychology. The existential attitude is first of all an attitude of self-consciousness. One feels himself separated from the world, from other people. In isolation, one feels threatened, insignificant, and meaningles. Existentialism is conceptualized throughout The Metamorphosis through Gregor’s alienation. The first inkling of alienation revealed itself with Gregor’s physical change. Gregor Samsa feels that he has been treated as a lowly insect and comes to feel that he is one: the story makes the leap from “I feel like an insect” to “I am an insect”. As the story unfolds the reader begins to understand that Gregor’s existence as a bug is imperceptibly different from his existence as a man. From the first, the reader’s perception is that Gregor is not perturbed by his change but attempts to mobilize himself despite it. He discovers his “numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk” and concedes defeat to a scratch he is unable to itch. However, Gregor retains at the beginning, and throughout the story, the human faculties of his mind.
The most tremendous affect that Gregor’s metamorphosis had was the psychological distance it put between him and his family. Gregor’s development removes him from his family emotionally and physically. Gregor, his serviceability to his family through financial support stripped from him, is gradually reduced by his metamorphosis and alienated from his family. Their tenuous endeavors to show empathy for Gregor and his circumstance expeditiously develop into revulsion with him, and then enmity. “Gregor now stationed himself directly before the living room door, determined to persuade the hesitant visitor to come in or at least discover who it might be, but the door was not opened again, and Gregor waited in vain”. From the point of view of the narrator we are shown how Gregor is feeling after only one day of living as a bug. When he imagines that someone is trying to come into his room, he ardently anticipates their arrival. At the end of the day, Gregor still possesses his humanity and is starved for familiar interaction.
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