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Biographical Approach to "The Metamorphosis"

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Jim Liu

on 26 September 2013

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Transcript of Biographical Approach to "The Metamorphosis"

Responsibility and Dignity: Franz Kafka

Gregor felt a defined sense of responsibility for the financial situation of his family
Kafka desired to cut loose from parental ties and establish himself in marriage and fatherhood
Gregor has achieved this at the beginning, having his family rely on him instead
A Bibliographical Approach to "The Metamorphosis"
"Bibliography (Works Cited): The Metamorphosis Biographical Analysis
"Franz Kafka." Image. Hulton Archive. World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
"Franz Kafka." World History: The Modern Era. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
Franz Kafka’s life, a rather depressing story of the human struggle, parallels nicely with The Metamorphosis. A Czech Ashkenazi Jew, Kafka’s outlook on the world around him is reflected in his radical political ideals, detached attitude towards his writing, and his tumultuous personal life. A morbid shame of his body, German speech, and timid personality led to severe health and mental issues later on. After bouts with mental illness, dissatisfaction with multiple job changes, and failed relationships/engagements, Kafka passed away from tuberculosis at the age of 41.
"Kafka, Franz." Columbia Electronic Encylclopedia, 6th Edition. Student Resource Center: EBSCOhost, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
An influential 20th-century writer, Kafka created multiple instances of dream-like situations for his characters. In doing so, Kafka reveals his haughty criticism of the world around him and its “guilt, isolation, and anxiety.” Although his literary output was significant, most of his publication came posthumously.
Ellis, John M. The Theory of Literary Criticism: A Logical Analysis. Berkeley: University of California, 1974. Print.
Ellis approaches literary criticism using rationality and logic. He explains the basic principles and the functions of each approach. Each approach is explored with its advantages and disadvantages. Each approach also has certain situations in which it would most benefit the understanding of the text.
Biographical Approach to
"The Metamorphosis"
Sameer Sripada, Edmond Xue, Jack Guo, Jiahan Liu
Oppression: Mr. Samsa
Biographical Criticism
Aims: author's life to work.
Secondary Documents
Resolve question
Form judgements

A Brief Overview of Franz Kafka's Life
Born into a Jewish family in Prague.
2 younger brothers died in infancy, 3 younger sisters (Gabrielle, Valerie, and Ottelie).
Worked in law and finance.
Writing often focused on the disturbingly unusual.
Burdensome life included:
difficult work schedule
health problems
relationships with women.

Motherly: Mrs. Samsa
Julie Kafka
timid woman
extremely submissive to Hermann
worked long hours in the Kafka's haberdashery business, leaving the children at home
Similar to how Mrs. Samsa was subservient to:
Mr. Samsa

The "Gretes" in
Kafka's Life
The Cockroach to Kafka's self-image
Shy and aloof, from childhood to adulthood
Self-image was depressingly insect-like (revolting and isolating)
Cockroach represents Kafka's low self-esteem towards his writing and its manifestations in his life
Unwilling to publish most of his writing
Upon death, Max Brod defied Kafka's last wishes

“…and then when she cried out, ‘Let me go to Gregor, he is my unfortunate boy! Don’t you understand that I have to go to him?’” (30)

"...saw his mother run up to his father...and saw as, stumbling over the skirts, she forced herself onto his father...her hands clasping his father's neck, begged for Gregor's life" (37).
"'This getting up so early...makes anyone a complete idiot. Human beings have to have their sleep'"(4).

"He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone" (5).

"Gregor now hardly ate anything anymore...would he take a bite into his mouth just for fun, hold it in for hours, and then mostly spit it out again" (43).

"If Gregor had only been able to speak to his sister and thank her for everything she had to do for him, he could have accepted her services more easily; as it was, they caused him pain” (28).
Shame: Job Dislike and Changes
Worked for an Insurance company in Italy
Later worked for the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute Office in Prague
Hopes of writing
Father not proud of son's job
Assumption: Author's Life Does Apply
Political Views
Economic Status
Sociological Context
Author's Values
Things to Consider
Parallel: Kafka's Tuberculosis to Cockroach Form
Symbolism: The Boarders
Grete Bloch
best friend of Kafka's fiancee
an intimate "friend" for Kafka himself
family member closest to Kafka
Kafka's role as the older brother

Diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1917
TB of the Larynx
Had to leave work and finally retire in 1922 due to his deteriorating health
"...he had known right from the first day of his new life that his father considered only the strictest treatment called for in dealing with him" (36).
"Oh God," he thought, "what a grueling job I've picked! Day in, day out-on the road...To the devil with it all!"(4)

"He was a tool of the boss, without brains or backbone."(5)
"Only his sister remained close to
Gregor..." (26).
"He would never again let her out of his room... his sister would burst into tears of emotion, and Gregor would raise himself up to her shoulder and kiss her on the neck..." (46-47)
Throws apple at Gregor
Forces Gregor into Room
Herman Kafka
Work Ethic
Social Status
Connection to Text
"You asked me recent why I maintain that I am afraid of you. As usual, I was unable to think of any answer to your question, partly for the reason that I am afraid of you...
Portrayed as a burden
Exhibit a clear hierarchy
Orders and blind obedience
Strict structure and organization
Julie Kafka. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
Kafka Quote. Digital image. IZ Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Kafka, Franz, Willy Haas, and Milena Jesenská. Letters to Milena. London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1992. Print.
This insightful first-person look at Kafka’s personal interactions shows the mental anxiety that he lived through every day of his life. Milena Jesenská, a Czech journalist, was one of many of Kafka’s failed attempts at human intimacy and relationship. Much of the time, instead of addressing Jesenská directly, Kafka chooses instead to talk about philosophical, worldly aspects, such as the rainy weather or the true nature of interaction by writing. Kafka’s already fragile mental state deteriorates quickly, and just like earlier in his life, he places the blame for his anguish and pain on those close to him (Jesenská).
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York, NY: Bantam, 1972. Print.
Loveday, Veronica. "Franz Kafka." Student Research Center. EBSCOhost, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Kafka, an Austrian author, recognized as one of the most prominent authors of the 20th century. His works express feelings of inadequacy in addition to a human struggle over dominant figures, which are mainly taken from his own personal experiences. He was very shy as a boy and never had a positive image of himself, which is seen in the breaking off of his many relationships. Kafka was never pleased with his work, and requested that his writings be destroyed after his death. His friend Max Brod saved the works, defying his wish.
Sad Cockraoch. N.d. Photograph. The Daily Rash. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
Williams, John, and Itzhak Perlman. Schindler's List Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. MCA Records, 1993. MP3.

"He stopped and looked straight in front of him, as if he were expecing something. And in fact his two friends at once chimed in..." (48)
"These serious gentlemen...were obsessed with neatness... They could not stand useless, let alone dirty junk." (43)
Insurance Company Worker
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