‘Kafkaesque’ never existed in the English dictionary before late nineteenth century. Why? Were the phenomena that it describes inexistent prior to that? No. Kafka brought to words what life brought to heart in a way that no one ever did. It appears to me as if he was more attached to his writing than is safely possible. His work looks more like his own life as I read more about him. Most of his work remained incomplete and complex. Like his life.
So why ‘The Metamorphosis’? Taken biologically, it refers to the “process by which an animal physically develops after birth or hatching, involving a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change in the animal’s body structure through cell growth and differentiation”. Taken colloquially, it can also refer to evolution in general. From waking up one morning and finding himself grown into a bug to seeing his emotions transform from innocence to regret to spite, Gregor Samsa really does metamorphose throughout this plot. However, the normalcy of his reaction to this metamorphosis is something not obvious. It is assumable that Kafka was pretty alienated from ‘normal humans’ all his life.
It is indeed heartbreaking to see that the very same family which completely depended on this person for a living now turns to take his life when he ceases to be of any use. Are we humans this shallow? Are emotional bonds so brittle? Are promises so whimsical? His concerns after his transformation and then his reactions to his family’s perception of him are eye-openers as well as peepholes into his own emotionally turbulent life.
From what is known about his life, it is easily observable that Kafka’s characters were his only refuge and confidante.
‘The Metamorphosis’ is an intense book with strong characters that make you stare the horrors of human development (or degradation) right in the face. It is poetic shorthand at its best I think!