Kafka's Humor Essay

1908 words - 8 pages

Kafka's Humor

In Franz Kafka's short fiction, "The Metamorphosis", the author was able to skillfully express deep emotions while keeping his readers interested throughout the story. Some may say that the story is sad and horrifying, yet Kafka creatively intertwined humor, which is many times quite ironic, into this seemingly sad story. This gives the reader the opportunity to view the situation from a different angle rather than just to focus on the horrific circumstances that Gregor Samsa, Kafka's protagonist, must go through in "The Metamorphosis." Margaret Church, a critic in contemporary studies explains, "with Kafka we are in the mind of Gregor and are forced to accept this world of Gregor and to recognize it as our own" (189). Kafka allows the reader to relate to Gregor, who is in the position of an outcast, and still be sympathetic towards him. Kafka also creates odd and ironic situations. Certain events that Kafka creates are rather comical because they reflect situations that we are familiar with. Ruth Tiefenbrun who has done research through psychological interpretations on Kafka's literary work says, "for Kafka everything he wrote had a unique, personal meaning"(6). I believe this story reflects Kafka's own life, which was rather dismal and may even seem almost horrifying from another person's point of view. It seems that this story reflects Kafka's troubled life, allowing the reader to see from his perspective through the unfortunate character, Gregor.

The story begins with Gregor waking up as an insect:

When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous insect. He was lying on his back, which was hard, as if planted in armor, and when he lifted his head slightly he could see his belly; rounded, brown, and divided into stiff arched segments; on top of it the blanket, about to slip off altogether, still barely clinging. His many legs, which seemed pathetically thin when compared to the rest of his body, flickered helplessly before his eyes (Kennedy 337).

This captures the reader's interest immediately. We can all agree that this will probably never happen to us. The fact that Kafka even thought of an event like this is already comical. If we were in Gregor's situation, we may feel extremely disturbed or even suicidal. However, Gregor instead thought of how to get out of bed and go to work. Gregor also thought of how to explain his situation to his family and the manager from the office. A conventional person would not even think of explaining the fact that one has been "transformed... into a monstrous insect," but would rather be overwhelmed by the fact that his or her life is ruined. Here Kafka made such a disastrous situation into what seems to be a temporary annoyance one may face in daily life. "What Gregor awakens to on the morning of his metamorphosis is the truth of his life. His ordinary consciousness has lied to him about himself..." (Greenburg 70)....

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