The Metamorphosis vs. the Dead
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and The Dead by James Joyce can both be viewed as their authors’ views of sociology. The stories’ protagonists, Gregor and Gabriel, are both men of authority within their families, but experience events and circumstances that change their perspectives of the world around them. Both Franz Kafka and James Joyce employ the third-person point of view to describe and relay the situations of Gregor and Gabriel effectively. In The Metamorphosis, Kafka uses the third person perspective to not only present his protagonist, Gregor, but also to introduce the supporting characters who affect Gregor’s mood and personality.
Gregor’s introduction is blunt in delivery for its circumstances of Gregor having become an insect. Kafka takes a limited third person point of view, thus, depicting Gregor’s thoughts, actions and emotions in a descriptive tone, allowing the reader to make his or her own assumption of his situation. Kafka begins his characterization by describing Gregor’s job and its importance to the Samsa family. Gregor is portrayed as a responsible figure of authority and the sole provider for his family. When Gregor undergoes the metamorphosis, he no longer has the ability to work and becomes a burden to his family.
As the story progresses, the reader witnesses Gregor fall deeper and deeper into depression, which causes him to become a recluse under the sofa in his room. “He stayed there all night, spending the time partly in a light slumber, from which his hunger kept waking him up with a start, and partly in worrying and sketching vague hopes…help the family to bear the inconvenience he was bound to cause them in his present condition” (Kafka 225). At this point, Kafka displays Gregor’s situation as temporary.
Unfortunately, the situation is not temporary and does become a burden on the family, stripping Gregor of his pride and qualities that make him human. “Gregor realized that the lack of all direct human speech for the past two months together with the monotony of family life must have confused his mind…shedding simultaneously all recollection of his human background” (Kafka 231). Gregor’s social evolution is complete when his father injures him, he realizes he has no potential, and the Samsa family disregards him as a member. When Gregor dies, Kafka switches his view onto the Samsa family, who are relieved and see a new life elsewhere. And it was like a confirmation of their new dreams and excellent intentions that are the end of their journey their daughter sprang to her feet first and stretched her young body” (Kafka 244-245). The Dead by James Joyce tells of Gabriel Conroy and his transformation from a man of high status and self-assurance to a man who must reconsider his perspective of life and relationships with others. At his aunts’ dinner party, Gabriel’s social hindrance is displayed during his encounter with Lily, the caretaker’s daughter. Gabriel attempts to chat with Lily as she takes his coat, but she snaps in reply to his question about her love life.
Gabriel ends the uncomfortable exchange by giving Lily a generous tip, but the experience makes him anxious. Ms. Ivors also strips him of his self-assurance. He is rattled by her accusations and loses confidence. “Gabriel tried to banish from his mind all memory of the unpleasant incident with Miss Ivors…she had tried to make him ridiculous before people, heckling him and staring at him with her rabbit’s eyes” (Joyce 253). Joyce’s characterization, from the third person point of view, portrays Gabriel as one who is socially awkward and unable to handle criticism.
The event that completes Gabriel’s social evolution is when Gretta, his wife, tells him about Michael Furey. Furey’s love for Gretta disturbs Gabriel due to its passion and tragic end. At this point, Gabriel realizes that his long love for Gretta lacked the passion that Michael Furey’s love for her had. Gabriel is skeptical about how he should live his life, and how he will continue with the thought of the “living” thought of the dead. “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of the last end, upon all the living and the dead” (Joyce 271).
Both Gregor and Gabriel experience epiphanies in their progression through the stories. They undergo transformations, which allow them to perceive the world in new ways. The third person perspectives used by Kafka and Joyce lends an impersonal tone to the stories and allow the readers to see the authors’ views and how the contrast with their protagonists’ original views. Works Cited Robert, DiYanni. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Sixth ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2007. 225-71.
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