Robert Keit Professor Dominique Zino
English 162W: Literature and Place March 6, 2010
Concepts of place and space shape the narrative-point-of-view in The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka. The ideas of spatial freedom in the chapter Spaciousness and Crowding in Space and Place The Perspective of Experience by Yi-Fu Tuan play and important part in the story (Tuan 51).By following the deterioration of the freedom of movement of the protagonist of The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, the reader will be able to understand these concepts of spatial freedom. Third-person narrative allows the reader to understand the broader perspective of the rest of the characters and their thoughts, feelings and reaction to Gregor’s situation.
The Metamorphosis is told in third-person narrative which tells the story of Gregor Samsa and his life after turning into an insect. Third-person narrative allows the reader to “view” the entire story unfold. First-person narrative is also in play, to help illustrate the thoughts and feelings of Gregor. In Gregor’s family, he was originally the family member who brought home money. He worked as a traveling salesman and rarely was able to partake in the activities that he wished to do.
Narrative point-of-view comes into play when Gregor’s father loses his temper with his son( Kafka 310).The father uses a cane to beat Gregor back to Gregor’s room, “His father, hissing like a savage, mercilessly drove him back. But Gregor had no practice
in walking backwards; it was a very slow process”. By showing Gregor’s lack of control over his body movement, his father easily dominates him and he is forced to act submissive. Throughout the rest of the story, Gregor becomes submissive to the rest of his family members, and eventually, cannot move on his own and loses the privilege of ‘personal space’ all together. This is further explained by Tuan when he explains about how a limited range of movement is related to the decrease in freedom, “An old person moves about with increasing difficulty. Space seems to close in on him” (Tuan 52).Because Gregor is having difficulty moving, let alone moving backwards, he has no choice but to allow his father to impose his will on him.
Third-person narrative is able to illustrate the development of Gregor’s family while he is locked in his room. Third person narrative shows what his family is doing and how they are reacting to his current situation. A first-person narrative would be very limited just focusing on Gregor’s Point-of-view within the confines of his room. To help create an income, Gregor’s family rented out rooms in their house. To store the families stuff to make room for tenants, they store it in Gregor’s room. Soon, his room becomes a waste disposal (Kafka 324).All of his original procession are taken from him and he becomes ‘below’ the rest of his family. To show how his family doesn’t even consider him a member of the family any more, they hide Gregor’s presence from the tenants almost as if they are ashamed of his existence. The sister, Grete has started taking up a job, as is becoming irritated at Gregor’s existence, “But even if his sister, worn out by her job at the store, has gotten tired of taking care of Gregor as she once had, it wasn’t really necessary for his mother to take her place so that Gregor wouldn’t be neglected” (Kafka 324).This is able to illustrate the slow break-down if the Samsa family because they are not feeling obligated anymore to take care of Gregor.
The father is also struggling with his job and the added burden of Gregor, “As soon as the clock would strike ten, his mother would try to wake his father with soft words of encouragement…his father badly needed his rest since he had to be at work as six in the morning (Kafka 322).Mr. Samsa’s life is starting to deteriorate because his job requires him to wake up early. He has trouble staying awake throughout the day and after coming home, does not want to do house chores, which are required because of the boarders.
To show how Gregor’s family is trying to forget his existence by locking him in his room alone, his mother tells her daughter, Grete , “ ‘Close that door, Grete’, so that Gregor was back in the dark, while in the next room, the women wept together or simply stared at the table with dry eyes”(Kafka 323).Tuan mentions that being confided in a limited space is another aspect of the limits of movement reflected in the limit of freedom, “An infant is unfree, and so are prisoners and the bedridden. They cannot, or have lost their ability to, move freely; they live in constricted spaces” (Tuan 52). This quote is able to exactly describe Gregor’s entire situation and how it is making his life miserable and slowly killing him.
In a narration of Gregor’s passing, which describes his mental and physical state, is done in third person, as well as in first person. “It was true that his entire body ached, but the pain seemed to him to be growing fainter and fainter and soon would go away altogether…He recalled his family with deep emotion and love” (Kafka 329).This is similar to how Tuan mentions that be confined in a closed space is the ultimate form of lack of freedom and imprisonment. In the third-person narrative, the reader is able to go inside Gregor’s mind as he thinks of how his life played out in the time he was an insect up to his final breath.
The Metamorphosis does not end with Gregor’s death. Instead, the story narrates the life of family after he dies and develops their characters. Third-person narrative allows the reader to understand the broader perspective of the rest of the family and how they cope with Gregor’s death, after which they become very successful and happy. “Leaning comfortably back in their seats they discussed their prospects for the future, which on closer inspection seemed to be not so bad, since all three of them had jobs” (Kafka 331). Originally, Gregor was the only family member who had a job and during the episode of him as an insect, the family’s freedom was limited along with his as they tried to cope with his existence, which they tried hard to ignore. His death was like a burden lifted from them, allowing them to become free due to Gregor’s death.
Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis, in An Introduction to Fiction; Kennedy,X.J,and Gioia, Dana, editors. Pearson United States 2010
Tuan,Yi-Fu Space and Place:The Perspective of Experience; Minneapolis, The University of Minnesota Press,1977