Friday, January 25, 2013

Kafka's Metamorphosis compares to Baudelaire's A Carcass

After reading the poem "A Carcass" and Metamorphosis, I noticed that they both mentioned "dust."  A Carcass talks about the dead carcass slowly returning to dust and decaying as it serves as food and a means of life for new living things.  Gregor in Metamorphosis also has an encounter with dust.  As his family abandons him in his room after his change to a bug, his room slowly gets more and more dusty as he withers away.  Although he eventually dies in this dust, his family seems almost reborn.  His father starts to look healthier as he goes back to work and Grete goes off to search for a husband.  Dust seems to be a pretty common symbol for life and death in many works of literature.  Although it may not be shed in a positive light like in the Bible, it does share the same idea that "from dust you were born and to dust you will return."

5 comments:

Linz A said...

Dust is neglect. I mean, you don't clean your house in a long time and dust gathers everywhere. It's a normal thing. So it makes sense that Gregor would be covered in dust. he has been neglected by his family (namely his sister) and now he is covered in dust. He has been entirely neglected. I think, in The Metamorphosis, the dust does not foreshadow Gregor's death, but rather serves as a representation of how he has been forgotten and abandoned. But maybe it is the dust to dust representation as well. Or both.

Michell D said...

I agree with Lindsey, dust represents the time that each being spent without attention. The carcass and Gregor were both neglected to the point that they were covered in the dust that coats everything in time. When you see things that are repeatedly cleaned or groomed, usually it is something respected by society. Gregor has been ostricised and no one cares about the well being of an animal carcass, so they are covered in dust. I like he point you made about life from the dust, I personally would not have drawn those parallels, but they are interestingz

Ian J said...

Austin, I agree with your assertion that while the dust quote may not shed positive light on Gregor's situation, it does shed some light on religion. Franz Kafka was Jewish, which meant that he believed in Jesus. So, I was thinking that maybe the fact about the dust would represent his religion, or the fact that he is a believer in Jesus and a follower of God. Also, during this time period, the church was sort of in the background of society. They did not play an integral role in people's daily lives. For example, Dickens, in his "Hard Times" writes of how there were 17 different churches in the place where he lived, and people virtually did not attend a single one. So here, in "Metamorphosis", I believe Kafka is trying to rehash people's appeal to religion, whether they are Christian, Jewish, etc. and attempting to get people back on track with those beliefs. Another example in Kafka's novella where he appeals to religion is the fact that Gregor dies in late March... aka, Easter! Jesus's death is represented by the celebration of Easter and the sacrifice he made for all mankind. Gregor also makes a sacrifice for his family; he dies so that they may live, because his presence only seems to worsen their condition, health, prosperity, etc. I think Kafka is certainly making an appeal to putting religion back in people's lives as a guide and comforter during the brutal times of the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

Laura N said...

Austin, when I read the part about Gregor and his lair being covered in dust, I thought that it foreshadowed his death and symbolized his slowly deteriorating/ dwindling life. It reminded me of the Carcass and the Bible passage as well.

However, I do not believe that this and other religious allusions mean that Kafka is trying to make the early 20th century more religious, as Ian says. I have to clarify, Ian, that Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the son of god and they don’t accept him as their savior. Jews like his teachings and believed that he was a great reformer, but they don’t believe in him. Jews in Europe in that time were assimilated within European society. Jews, such as Kafka, would have probably been very familiar with the story of Jesus because they were such a minority and that’s just how minorities have to get along in society. I think the reason for using New Testament allusions was to either connect with his readers, which might be mostly Christians since they would understand the metaphors, or to compare Gregor to a martyr making a statement about how far selflessness and benevolence will get you (not far) in a world that has changed and keeps changing drastically into a colder, unspiritual way. According to the head notes, it sounds like Kafka was a secular Jew, which doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t identify as one, or that he didn’t have any sense of spirituality. If his religion/ spirituality did inform his writing, I suspect Kafka would say that the music seen symbolizes human’s tendency towards spirituality especially during trying times, in this case when you’re neglected and ostracized.

Grant Reggio said...

Dust could be a metaphor for idleness as well as everything else that's been pointed out in this thread. Being idle never seems to be a good thing, at least when there's no consolation from it. (There's a difference between idleness and tranquility) Idleness often leads to some sort of slow, helpless deterioration. We see this clearly in the carcass and with Gregor in that he devotes his soul to the purpose of others, while remaining idle in not attending to his own purpose, whatever it may be.