Kafka's Truth


Catherine Jones
Dr. Shepherd
Lit 2020
05 April, 00
Kafka's Truth
Despite the intentional ambiguity in his work, Franz Kafka's stories do contain a few common thematic threads. Kafka's search for truth, be it about relationships, justice, religion, or human nature is the one interpretation that most critics agree upon.
Wilhelm Emrich, a highly acclaimed professor in Berlin, states that Kafka's writings can only be interpreted by accepting the full truth: ?An assistive and willing readiness for the full truth means the ability to renounce all personal, limited ideas, wishes, and efforts of will and to enter into the fullness of all of that-which-is? (50). What he is suggesting is that in order to truly hear what Kafka has to say, one is required to completely disregard the conventional.
For example, if one were to read ?The Metamorphosis,? and merely regurgitate the surface details of the story, they would entirely miss the truth behind it. On the level of relationships, the average reader might be touched by the family's tolerance for the creature, noting that they may not have been able to do the same in a similar situation. He or she may overlook the truth of this story as ?the realization that even the most beautiful, most tender relations among people are founded on illusions? (Emrich, 142). Where was the beloved sister after his presence became burdensome? Did his family not remember his contributions to pay off the debts owed by his father? Of course not, because they became comfortable in their situation and took Gregor for granted. When his family was convinced that no hope remained for his recovery, they moved on with their lives as if Gregor no longer existed.
It is difficult to draw from ?The Metamorphosis,? any particular divine theme without first knowing that religion was the whole world to Kafka and that ?he viewed the total sum of possible experience in terms of religion? (Muir, 36). There is a subtle religious inference within Gregor's beetle existence where he seeks the ?way to the unknown nourishment he had been longing for? (Emrich, 145). Is he longing for God, or looking for comfort in His absence? The first meal that Gregor was given consisted of bread and milk. Bread symbolizes that which is sacred in some religions. Catholicism, for example, blesses bread as the body of Christ. In biblical parables, seven loaves were broken to feed a large crowd. When Gregor refused the bread and milk, one might infer that he was rejecting God for putting him in his unthinkable condition. Emrich emphasizes Gregor's possible rejection of faith:
?A modern man in his alienated condition, treated as an insect by his fellows who think only of appearances, frustrated in his longings which he is unable to communicate, swept away?and all the while, an unacknowledged religious victim?(36).
Human nature is difficult to describe, especially when one is expected to think outside of ?that-which-appears-to-be? instead of ?that-which-is.? After Gregor realized his metamorphosis, he still attempted to carry out his life as usual, perturbed not because he was a beetle, but because his daily work routine was disrupted. He was ?in a state of unresolved conflict between work and ego? (Emrich, 136), meaning that although he acknowledged his changed condition, though barely, Gregor still believed that it would not hinder his ability to perform his work duties. It seems odd that Gregor, who disliked his job, would not view his metamorphosis as a clear reason to abandon it. Gregor thought to himself on that morning, ?If I didn't have to hold my hand because of my parents I'd have given notice long ago, I'd have gone to the chief and told him exactly what I think of him? (Kafka, 1123). It is when this point arises that Kafka illustrated true human nature: man works out of obligation or duty, not because he enjoys it. Gregor is trapped in his insect form, just like he was trapped in his job.
Self-realization and fear of death are other issues Kafka deals with in ?Metamorphosis.? Gregor ?takes a long, deep look at himself and discovers his fearsome counterpart? (Fickert, 47). The moment that he accepted being a beetle and started living like one, symbolizes the moment Man first realizes who he really is