'When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a gigantic insect.'
The book, Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka starts with the above line which is considered one of the best opening lines in the history of English literature. Metamorphosis, a 1915 novella, can be seen aligning with the author's life as he connects himself with Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of the book.
Franz Kafka had a very tough life. Although he worked for an insurance company, he was not content with how his life has become. He, like most of us, became a capitalistic puppet. What fascinates us more is the author's relationship with his father: a distant and an unspeakable bond.
His father had a significant influence in his life and work. Having the upper hand in the family, his father was a successful business man who had a forceful personality. This develops as a disturbing element in his relationship with his son, Kafka -- leaving him feeling oppressed for most of his life. Even in Metamorphosis, Kafka mentions how his father throws an apple on him assuming that he was hurting his mother. The issue: a slight miscommunication can hamper your relationship with someone and while holding grudges goes on, there is always an easy way i.e. to talk it out, which generally did not happen.
Kafka's works were not discovered and cherished until he died. Like Karl Marx and his friend Engels, he, too, had a friend who later published his works after he passed away. When one reads about the author's life followed by Metamorphosis, we can conclude that the entire novella is a metaphor of his life. Interesting, how when (Gregor Samsa), the protagonist wakes up and finds himself turned into an insect, he fails to focus on the transition rather stressing more on how he will work his way out in his office and the manager's reaction for not attending work.
Gregor is like most of us: keeping up with deadlines, boss's taunts and the crowded metros stresses him a lot. Even though the lifestyle was hampering his mental health, he is doing it for the sake of money and his family.
Samsa was working to pay off his father's debts, while also taking care of his family. Despite turning into a bug, he was hooked up with the idea of working. Ironically, if one is to assume that he tried not to go back to work, he couldn't break free from it either because he had to keep up with the industrial society.
Kafka's Metamorphosis and mental health
The book, among all elements it touched upon, could be seen giving a slot to mental health. Franz Kafka had well focused on taking care of one's mental health, however, he failed to keep up with it. Even though the book revolves around the industrialist society, where one is seen constantly draining in and out of work, a pinch of mental health can also be seen stressed upon.
Given the current pandemic and the massive job losses in these past months, some of us may feel like Samsa (the bug), where giving up was or is never the solution. At the end, one can only say that the show must go on.
Samsa relates to us one way or another. What if someday we wake up and find ourselves turned into a gigantic insect? Something to think about.
Maybe we are all just a bug inside.