Simple Summaries


Franz Kafka

Simple Summary by Sarah Frank


●    Takes the unconscious and turns it into the physical

●    Kafka: Kafka lived in fear, was constantly told he was a vermin

○     Jewish German but his father didn’t practiceJudaism because of the times

○     Only got to write at night

○     Good student, law school

●    We read to think!

●  Politics:

○     Raised speaking German, went to German schools in Prague

○     “The story was written in 1912,on the cusp of the first war to end all wars, World War I, and premonitions of the impending conflict are found in the theme of authority in the story. The genesis of the war, in part, is based on German aspirations for power.”

●    Social/cultural

○     Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s henchmanwrote: "Obeying an order was the most important thing to me. . . .It couldbe that is in the nature of the German." "Now that I look back . . .I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a verycomfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one’s ownneed to think"

○     Obeying authority = easy

●    The arts

○     Distortion and stylized techniquesare becoming popular

○     Shock factor

○     Kafka: “I think we ought to readonly books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake usawake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place?”

○     Also Kafka: “A book must be theaxe for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.”

●    Science/philosophy

○     Freudian influences

■    “Sigmund Freud. His Interpretation of Dreams had beenpublished just twelve years before the story was written, and in Europe, hisideas and views on life, particularly family dynamics, were widelydisseminated.”

○     Existentialism

■    “the philosophy of existentialism, was prominent among European writers and thinkers from the early 1900s to the second World War.”

●    Kafka-esque: situations that are characterized by spiritual anxiety, existential worries, etc


·       Devices:

o   POV: limited 3rd person (only through Gregor)

§  Moredetached

o   Distortion

o   Nonchalance

o   Symbolism

·       Hisacceptance of his metamorphosis makes us uneasy

·       Hewas so unhappy with his life that his subconscious took over

·       Didhe use his metamorphosis to punish his family or did his metamorphosis startbecause of his family’s punishment?

·       Society,his family, and himself lead him to undergoing a metamorphosis

·       Sister= id

·       Parasiticfamilies and life

·       It’s about anxiety

·       The alienation of humans from society



Summary of Metamorphosis:

·       Gregor wakes up late for work and realizes he is an insect

·       Heis a traveling salesman and thinks it can’t be real: he must be overworked

·       Beinglate for a train ride seems like a bigger problem to him

·       Hismother comes to the door and he realizes his voice is different

·       Gregorknows he needs to get him in order to avoid his boss’s wrath

·       The chief clerk comes to his house, convinced Gregor is trying to get out of work when that’s not the case

·       Gregor says he’ll be on the next train

·       Whenhe unlocks the door, his family is shocked

·       His parents are in debt to the people Gregor works for

·       Gregor can’t stop the chief clerk from leaving

·       Gregor’s father beats Gregor back into his room

·       Gregor wakes up later to milk and white bread but finds them gross

·       Gregor’s sister brings him new food (cheese, rotten vegetables, and bones)

·       Gregoris now fed twice a day

·       5years ago, Gregor’s dad’s business failed (which is why Gregor has to provide)

·       Gregor’s dad says he saved money that can support them – Gregor is confused why he was working then

·       Gregor’s sister removed the furniture even though his mom was against it (because it felt like giving up)

·       Gregor’s mom faints at the sight of him and when Gregor’s father comes back, he throws apples at him: paralyzing and hurting Gregor

·       Gregor is thrown back into his room in pain

·       The family sells jewels, got new jobs, and wanted to downsize the apartment

·       They get a new maid who randomly opens Gregor’s door and then starts disturbing him from there

·       Three new tenants demanded the apartment be clean so the clutter is moved to Gregor’s room

·       The door to Gregor’s room is left open and he comes out to the main room; the tenants decided to move but not pay

·       Gregor’s sister is like “GREGOR NEEDS TO GO!”

·       Gregor’s father is upset that Gregor can’t understand them (even though Gregor is the one that is misunderstood)

·       The maid found Gregor dead the next morning

·       Gregor’sfather kicks out the tenants

·       Thefamily goes on a tram ride and is like “wow, life is good! Let’s find a newplace and be happy!” 


Section 1 Notes:

·       Pictureon wall = symbolic of dream life

·       Hethinks he is dreaming but he’s obviously not

·       “Allthis nonsense” shows nonchalance and disregard

·       Very clinical diction

·       Histotal acceptance of his transformation

·       “I’mgoing to make a big break” (no longer a wimpy salesman, just a roach)

·       “I’vegot the torture of traveling…” (so not concerned?)

·       “Hewas a tool of the boss without brains or backbone.”

·       “Gregorfelt fine with the exception of his drowsiness.” (BUT HE IS A ROACH)

o   Heis simultaneously set free (of his job) and imprisoned (in his room)

·       “Hisbiggest misgiving came from his concern about the loud crash that was bound tooccur and would probably create, if not terror, at least anxiety behind all thedoors.”

·       Familyshould have helped and cheer him on (at least, Gregor thinks so) but they aredisgusted

·       Gregor’s father keeps trapping him in his room

·       “This had hardly happened when for the first time that morning, he had a feeling of physical well-being; his little legs were on firm ground; they obeyed him completely.”

o   He’s happy now that he has accepted his metamorphosis

·       “Pitilessly, his father came on, hissing like a wild man.”

·       Book 1 ends with him being driven back into his room