Modernity and the existential metaphysics of life and death in Kafka’s Metamorphosis

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Franz Kafka’s story is vividly straightforward and clearly adheres to the primary incident of Gregor’s transformation into vermin. The horror, trembling and conflicting emotions that arise in the reader’s spirit are due to the insistent enactment of this metaphor-which like life itself-breaks all bounds of predictability, rational certitude and logic. Certainly, the reader cannot but naturally doubt the impossibility of the primary incident. Notwithstanding, against all instincts and inclinations, everything in the story is meticulously constructed to prompt the reader to accept the truth of the primary incident as an irreversible factum brutum. Henceforth, the reader seeing the absence of an acceptable cause for the primary cause itself; is, at the same time, searching under the very clarity of the story for an acceptable ground to interpret the hidden mystery of the metamorphosis of the reality of personhood into vermin. But no matter what, prearranged in lucid imagery, the facts of the story corroborate to simulate a fabricated yet real world that is hanging over an incomprehensible abyss, dangling among the vicissitudes of a physical world out of balance and harmony with its surroundings, a world that surely accomplishes a blow and shock to moral identity, mostly seems to render asunder the building of our character with its pretenses to self-sufficient autonomy. Kafka’s ingenious story evinces at every turn a fatality that has nothing to do with an incorrigible personal law and ethical countenance; instead, shatters all hope of imbuing life with personal meaning. Gregor Samsa’s self-alienation, his humiliating metamorphosis, is reminiscent of the modern predicament of human beings in the technological era of machines brute facts and information systems, points through and through to the reality of material existence and the possibilities of its deterioration, consequently moves toward the complete subversion of an ethical universe. Gregor’s metamorphosis from a civilized man into a horrific and monstrous vermin, an instinctual underworld character with an almost automatic nature, and finally to a simple bit of matter, turns him into an antagonist who upsets all the instincts of life. Indeed, Kafka’s underworld vermin gives rise to a deep and stifled impulse in modernity, to the gradual spiritual death of the human, a metamorphosis par excellence of the human substantia (with no potentia: influence, power, might, or sway), that overrides all instinctual and hermeneutical bounds, pointing ever more so to a reductio ad absurdum: the untenable yet real reduction of human beings to a piece of matter and information moving toward the inorganic, making them at par with all animals. Henceforth, the humiliated modern human -uprooted beyond bound, stripped of all ethical purposefulness, no longer a moral entity given to thinking and questioning- is, called to de facto accept and obey the mastermind of simulated techno capital reality, and, the geophysical enterprise of its vested interests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Arts & Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventMultidisciplinary Conference hosted by The International Journal of Arts and Sciences at the University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, 29 November– 2nd December 2016. International Academic Conference: Full Schedule

- University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Duration: 29 Nov 20162 Dec 2016


  • Metamorphosis, Self-identity, Estrangement, Modernity, Freedom


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