One of the first aspects of this story that struck both Laurie and I (and I think was most likely the aspect of the book we talked about most) was metaphor. One could look at the story about a man who literally turns into an insect. More likely, it's metaphor to some form of human dread and misery. With all of the talk about money, work and provision, I was certainly reminded of unemployment, the sudden apparently uselessness of who was up until recently a provider. There's also the possibility of looking at it through the lens of one who becomes injured, disfigured, handicapped, insane beyond the ability to function in society or otherwise incapacitated. There's also the possibility of there really was no Gregor. The insect was the family's paralysis and inability to function or provide for themselves (although, again I seem to be slouching toward yet another economics and social justice lesson.) When the insect dies, while they mourn a bit, they move on with their lives. Leading up to the insect dying, the father finds work, they take in boarders, etc.
So, Gregor wakes up as a giant insect. In an absurd first act, he spends a lot of time concerned about missing his train, getting to work, keeping his position and spends very little time thinking about how and why he is now a giant insect. Gregor's superior arrives and this heightens the exchange, especially while his door is closed and his superior speaks to him through it. He is cumbersome. He finds movement and control of his new body difficult.
Gregor does what he can to please his family by keeping out of sight. His sister makes some efforts to care for him while obviously being revolted at the same time. There's the wonderfully subtle section where Gregor is recalling his he was going to try to help her go to the music conservatory to study, but then he turned into a giant insect. The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley. So often dreams are dashed by unforseeable circumstances. There's a lesson in impermanence here.
The family continues to worry about money, missing what was formerly taken for granted. The family rises to the occasion as best they can, but still there is resentment. So much so that they lash out at Gregor, the only visible target although an innocent. Which brings remorse.
The third act brings in the charwoman. We hate the charwoman although she is all of us whenever we mock and scorn, seek to place ourselves higher than others, and gleefully take out our frustrations on the less fortunate. The charwoman is the embodiment of a very ugly side of humanity, although a seemingly ubiquitous one.
And the third act brings in the lodgers, yet another sign of the family's desperation and a vaguely sinister force both in their presence and even more so at the threat of the loss of them. Also there is the shame and dread of the thing in the room that one does not talk about. The unloved and neglected thing whose very presence brings misery, but what can they do? It's their son, maybe. The sister gives voice to the frustration"When one has to work as hard as we do, all of us, one can't stand this continual torment at home on top of it."
So, there's an element of human compassion and tenderness, how we're all alone, people don't reach out to one another and the consequences of a culture like that. Perhaps this is the real "wound" that kills Gregor or, at the very least, the actual wound is borne from this homelife.
This was one of my favorite pieces in this series so far. It's a very straightforward narrative, which I appreciate on some levels (although it brings to mind some other writers to come in the time after Kafka whose language, rhetoric and word choices are so stripped down as to make them bleak, surgically removing all poetry from language. Although, in this case, I think that the comparison would be unfair, a bit like blaming Walt Whitman for bad modern free verse slam poetry. Kafka is an amazing writer regardless of what trends are yet to come in the modern era.
Well, I hope that all of you enjoyed reading this as much as I did. I know I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts on it.
Remember, next time is Homer's Odyssey part 1. We will be reading through page 58 in my edition or up through Book V. Get a copy and start reading. We're going to stretch this one over 5 weeks to keep from having super-long passages each week.