Sunday, 18 March 2012

Are your family members exploiting you?

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

This novella can be looked at from two aspects: exploitation and dread. To deal with the dread first, who hasn’t had that dream before the day of a big event that you makes you feel conflicted? Do you know the dream I’m talking about? It happens when you know you need a good night’s sleep, because the next day is going to be challenging.

But horrifyingly enough, you dream that the alarm rings, and you fail to respond to it. In your dream, you know you must leave the house by eight am, but for some reason, you’re still in bed then, staring at the alarm clock. By 9:30, or so, in this dream, you are making feeble attempts to get dressed, but your clothes are all lost. Perhaps it’s your shoes you can’t find. By 11:20 you’re still kicking around the kitchen, spilling orange juice all over the cat, and beating yourself up for being so late. By 2:40 in the afternoon you wake up from a nap, popcorn stuck in your hair, and you’re upset with yourself by being such a slacker, and by 5:30 that afternoon, you’re shrinking with the horror that you failed to live up to your responsibilities. Have you had that dream?  Using bibliography, or literature therapy as it's also called, this novella can help with such issues.

Poor Gregor is having this dream, but there’s also the aspect of his family bothering him. This is probably the most important aspect of the book. These days it’s more often that parents are supporting their adult children, but in this case, it’s the young adult who is responsible for the welfare of the entire family. Personally, I haven’t come across a family like this, but common sense tells me it happens.

Gregor works long hours at a job he detests, all to keep his family living very comfortably. The most astonishing fact of Gregor’s situation is that his family doesn’t appreciate him. They are openly hostile, instead. Look at the imagery for how he sees himself in their eyes.   Even as he looks down at his newly developed bug body, he finds "His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes."  Poor thing.

Since reading this novel, I have been unable to hurt an earwig. Instead, I just want to lift it to a plate and feed it cookies. My entomology isn’t that great I can swear this is an earwig, but they just look so sweet and vulnerable to me now… The bugs have certainly benefitted from my bibliotherapy here...

Do you feel like Gregor from time to time? This short book won’t spell out any advice for how to deal with your family or your job, but it could give you some clarity about how you think they feel about you. The great thing about clarity is that once you have it, you can take steps to improve your situation. Good luck my ear-wiggish friend. Let me know how it works out.

By the way, I once had an elderly nun remove a student’s essay from my hands, because it was about this novel. She primly told me that she couldn’t allow me to mark that essay, because she could see I had very little understanding of the novel’s theme, as evidenced by the fact I found the book humorous. I was bewildered that she didn’t find it humorous. Years later, I read that Kafka himself was bewildered that North Americans didn’t see the humor in his writing. So if it gives you a chuckle, that’s fine.

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