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Kafkaesque Elements

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Jimmy McNamee

on 23 May 2014

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Transcript of Kafkaesque Elements

Movie Scene- The Hunger Games
Fine Art
By: Jimmy McNamee
Kafkaesque Elements- Anxiety, Distortion, and Isolation
Salvador Dali's Oil painting
The Metamorphosis of Narcissus
displays the Kafkaesque elements of distortion and isolation. The painting depicts narcissus stuck looking at his reflection in the water, just as the old myth says he does. Although in Dali's painting we see next to him a hand holding onto an egg that has a flower growing out of it. This hand figure when examined closely also resembles Narcissus. In the background you can see, what resembles people, except these people have no faces. The viewer can also take notice to the fact that narcissus is alone, there are very few people seen in the valley and every person in the picture is depicted together except for Narcissus who is on his own by the water. These features exemplify the surrealism and Kafkaesque elements of the painting and can be related to the Metamorphosis. Narcissus is depicted on his own and neglected by the rest of society around him, similar to the way that Gregor Samsa was neglected by his family. This hand depicted shows the coming of a new Narcissus, except instead of a bug it is a flower. Even with the transformation there is still nobody around it to acknowledge it. This is similar to how when Gregor became a bug his family only left him alone even more so. Along with isolation Dali was able to depict a sense of distortion through his use of the faceless people and egg growing a flower. The egg and flower represent the new birth of Narcissus, although it cannot really happen Dali uses it to represent a transformation, just as Kafka uses Gregor's bug transformation for the same purpose.

Gregor wakes up and is a giant bug. Gregor does not even let that phase him and only worries about sleeping it off and then about how he is going to be late to work. This distorted bug metamorphosis function in the same fashion as the metamorphosis of narcissus. In both situations those who it may affect whether it be the faceless people or Gregor and his family neither seem to acknowledge the distortion of the situation. Rather they neglect it and it leads to a sense of isolation. Both Narcissus and Gregor are left on their own and must face the transformation brought upon them by themselves. Gregor finds it hard to even envision life outside of his room, while Narcissus must now forever look at himself in the water as a flower. Both strange transformations help to present the effects of isolation and distortion.
"When Gregor Samsa awoke in his bed one morning from unquiet dreams, he found himself transformed into an enormous insect" (945).

"He did so only in some kind of nostalgia for the feeling of freedom he had previously found in looking out the window..." (960).
Quotes from
Catcher in The Rye
"I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I'd never get to the other side of the street. I thought I'd just go down, down, down, and nobody'd ever see me again" (197).

Quote 23: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody" (214).

The novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is directly related to the novella The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka because both stories show characters with distorted outlooks on society that struggle with isolation. In Salinger's novel the readers meets Holden Caufield a boy looks down on life and is very depressed and annoyed with society. His thoughts about society could be construed as distorted. He is in need of help and struggles to find it because of how alone he is. He feels that everyone is phony and that there are very few people that he can trust or be himself with. He tells the reader a number of times how he either is a great liar or how he feels that you should not tell people personal things and get to know other people. In this case he tries to use isolation to help himself and as a form of protection. Instead this harms him, similar to how it harms Gregor. Holden is forced to transform into a grown up in New York City and because he is not ready for that type of lifestyle he struggles with anxiety and isolation. This is similar to Gregor and what he faces when he becomes alone. Gregor and Holden have nobody that they can go to for help. They are left on their own to solve their respective issues at hand. The inability to solve the problems on their own caused them a sense of anxiety and made them very depressed. Soon Gregor gave up and was dehumanized and Holden often felt like he was nothing. In both scenarios we as readers are witnessing the Kafkaesque elements of isolation, anxiety, and distortion come to life.
The Hunger Games, an annual event where each year each of the twelve districts of Panem must send a boy and girl tribute to fight to the death against the other tributes as part of a punishment by the Capitol. This event represents the Kafkaesque element of distortion as in today's society many could not imagine doing something as rash as this. In the clip you can see the reaping ceremony where the tributes are chosen. It is very gray which gives off a heavy dark tone. This creates a very intense emotion of fear for Katniss as the viewer can sense that something bad is occurring. The camera is constantly closing up on the characters faces, but especially focuses on Katniss. Once her sister is called and she volunteers to go in her place the camera almost always focuses on her which really presents a sense of isolation. This can be related to Gregor. Once Gregor becomes a bug his family, who we know always relied on him before, has now began to want nothing to do with him. Katniss and Gregor both now have to be isolated and away from everybody else in their own world that very few can understand. The element of isolation is prominent in both contexts.
In the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" the listener can hear of what sounds like a hallucination. The Beatles portray a very distorted world and it often seems as if they are alluding to being on a drug. When listening you hear at one point the Beatles sing "Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies". This is just one example of the many distorted things the Beatles constantly sing during the song. Right before the chorus the singing is almost in a daze and slurred, and then becomes intense loud and colorful again once the chorus is reached. The Beatles continuously sing "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and in the music video a woman changing colors is portrayed flying on a horse. This could never actually happen and is portraying a distorted view on how The Beatles are seeing society. Just as they used distortion to create a hit song, Kafka used the dehumanization of Gregor and the distortion of him becoming a bug in order to represent his view of society and how he felt it was in need of a change.
"What a strenuous profession I have chosen-traveling day in, day out! The demands of business are far greater on the road than they are at the home office, and I'm burdened with the annoyances of travel besides: the worry about train connection; the irregular, bad meals; a social life limited to passing acquaintances who never become real friends. To hell with it!" (946).

"But still, still, was this really his father? The same man who lay tired out, buried deep in his bed, when Gregor was all set to go on a business trip?...Now, he was quite well put together. He dressed in the kind of close-fitting blue uniform with gold buttons that doormen at the banking houses wore..." (965).
The anxiety and isolation of Gregor is presented in these two quote. In the first it shows how alone he was even before he became a bug. This attitude he presents towards life is similar to that of Holden's as he does not believe in establishing a quality relationship with somebody else. It is like their sense of protection. Then we see Gregor realize that he is not needed as now his Dad is going to begin to work. He feels alone and unneeded just like Holden does when he is roaming the streets throughout New York City.
"The deep injury from which Gregor had suffered for over a month- the apple remained embedded in his flesh as a visible memento..." (966).

"There were old, half-rotten vegetables; bones from last night's meal, covered with congealed white sauce; a few raisins and almonds; a cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days before..."(957).

We see Gregor effected by the apple. He is struggling to survive as a bug. Kafka really uses distortion hear to show the reader how dehumanized Gregor has become; first with the choice of food and then later with the apple, as the apple is rotting so is Gregor and his human self. This is similar to the Beatles song as they use distorted imagery to describe what sounds to be a hallucination.

""He immediately dunked his head in the milk nearly up to his eyes. But he soon pulled back, disappointed. it wasn't only that his tender left side made it hard for him to eat - for it seemed he was able to eat only if his entire panting body cooperated- it as rather that the milk, which had always been his favorite drink, and which his sister certainly placed for that reason, didn't taste good at all" (956).

"I don't want to use the name of my brother in front of this monster, so let me just say this: we must get rid of it"(973.

In both quotes we see Gregor is being isolated from his former self. He is no longer a human and cannot even enjoy his favorite drink. His own family has removed him from their lives to the extent that his sister will not even use his name and refers to him as a monster. Katniss is isolated in a similar fashion by the Capitol. They are now taking her to participate in the Hunger Games. She is forced to leave her family and friends and fight on her own to survive. This would cause a sense of isolation to be felt by Katniss similar to that of Gregor.
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