“The Metamorphosis” representing the Serbians in World War 2

April 10, 2007 by aaron

I would like to propose a new meaning of “The Metamorphosis” quite different from those already stated. “The Metamorphosis” can interpreted to show the effect of the dying on a family but also interpreted to show the effect that an outcast from society can feel. Gregor’s turning into a bug could be construed as a groups sudden repulsiveness to the world as a whole. With each member of the family displaying a different part of the world at large.

“The Metamorphosis” was published in 1915 and written during Europe’s slide to World War 2, during this time Austria-Hungry began persecuting the Serbs who they feared because of growing nationalism movements in Bosnia: newspapers were closed, student leaders arrested and the military was given a large amount of control in the country. After the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1913 Serbs were suddenly the pariahs of Austria-Hungry.

The Serbs had been previously a minority throughout Austria-Hungry but were mainly located in the Bosnia and Herzevogina. However the Serbs in other areas of the country would have overnight become repulsive to the whole of Austria-Hungry, with the countries government, religious leaders, and everyday people calling for the destruction of the Serbian nations to the south of Austria-Hungry.

The different entities in this struggle can be directly traced to characters in “The Metamorphosis.” The chief clerk is a suspicious man, and can represent the whole of the Austria-Hungry government, they allowed the persecution and punishment of innocent Serbs. The renters can be seen as Germany, Britain and France, they would not help the Serbs but instead stood aloof from them passing judgments one way or the other. The cleaning lady is Russia, although supposed to be on the Serbs side instead Russia caused as much trouble for the Serbs as they helped, they also were there to help sweep up the mess the Austria-Hungarians caused.

Gregor’s family represents the different feelings of the people of Austria-Hungry towards the Serbs. Gregor’s father represents those who depend on the labor that Serbs can provide but despise and fear them. Gregor’s mother represents those who are indifferent either way only stepping half-heartily in when they feel things have gone too far. Gregor’s sister represents the rest of the population of Austria-Hungry at first outside the petty squabbles but eventually succumbing to the pressure from the other sources. Gregor or the average Serbian would have found themselves to have changed from a under valued minority that provided the unwanted jobs to suddenly becoming a pest or infestation, valueless to all others.

I think in light of Kafka’s view on totalitarianism that this theory is valid. Had this story been written 20 years later then another interpretation would be that Gregor represented European Jews and the descent of Nazism and antisemitism, because this story can be easily reinterpreted to focus on any disenfranchised group it lends credence to my theory. However there is also a problem with this idea, a story that is too broad can be reinterpreted many different ways, and none of them can be assured the “real” meaning. Unfortunately short of time travel there is no real way to know for sure what was going through Kafka’s head as he wrote this story.

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