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To Live In A Vermin’s World: A Marxist View Of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

2135 words - 9 pages

To Live in a Vermin’s World: A Marxist View of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

One of the honors for ‘greatest theories’ in contemporary civilization has to be awarded to Marxism. Invented in late 19th century by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Marxism has had great influences on the development of modern society. Despite its eventual failure, Marxism once led to numerous revolutions that working classes raised against the ruling parties in different countries. Consequently, it paved the way for the erection of the Berlin Wall, the formation of the Warsaw Treaties—communist camp confronting NATO, and the establishment of a world super power, the Soviet Union at the dawn of this century. Even ...view middle of the document...

Such representation is displayed in the similarity between the causes, natures, and endings of Gregor’s transformation and those of proletarian struggles.

Realistically, it is impossible for men to turn into bugs; thus, Gregor’s metamorphosis has some concrete meaning beyond simply a biological transformation. Applying Marxist theories, the process of the metamorphosis represents the struggle proletarians raise against the controlling bourgeoisie class. Firstly, Gregor is in the right social position for such a struggle to take place. Gregor and his family are proletarians whereas his boss is a typical bourgeois. In the main guide of communism, “The Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Marx defines the proletariat as including all people who possess no assets and live only on salaries (Marx 128). Gregor, accordingly, belongs to this class for he has no business of his own but is leading a life of working for others (Kafka 4). Similarly, such classification into the proletariat is true for all other family members who do not even work. By contrast, the boss of the company that Gregor works for owns the capital and is, hence, seated in the social upper class—the bourgeoisie. According to Marxist theory, Gregor’s family and the boss are in the two opposite classes.

Now that Gregor is a proletarian, his situation conforms to the condition of the occurrence of class struggles. Marxism states the perpetual existence of such conflicts so long as there exists antagonist classes generated by unjust social position and uneven capital distribution (Marx 120). In such a sense, the cause for Gregor’s metamorphosis matches that of a proletarian struggle. As shown in the story, Gregor is the oppressed before his transformation. That is to say, he is forced to lead a life that he does not desire. The “day-in-day-out” and ceaseless travelling life tortures him, psychologically and physically (Kafka 4). He is likely to be well educated, a fact that can be seen from the layout of his room (23-4), yet he and his family are living in the bottom of the societal hierarchy. The family turned into lower-class proletariat from petty bourgeoisie due to a business fiasco Gregor’s father encountered (Corngold 211). Once possessing a certain amount of capital, the family is now living on selling labor to others, which Marx considers as the only way for proletarians to survive (Marx 128). For Gregor, the social role he plays is by no means satisfactory. It is such injustice in social position that triggers his metamorphosis.

Like the idea of unjust social positions, uneven wealth distribution also contributes to Gregor’s impulse for a breakthrough. As Marxist theory states, proletarians’ labor selling results only in the accumulation of capitals owned by social upper classes, their employers in particular (Marx 128). In other words, people who produce get less proportion of the wealth. This is exactly the situation Gregor is in. The only person working to support the...

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