Gregor’s Loss of Human Identity in His World

depressed man in sunset

The tenets of Marxist Theory are socio-economic, the ideology of materialism, alienation as a result of a capitalistic system, and class relations (Bertens).  This theory can be used to interpret the text of the short story, “The Metamorphosis,” through the central theme of class relations, as well as alienation, and a socio-economic atmosphere in which the main character and his family live.

Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is about the transformation of the main character, Gregor, into a vermin, which is a literal representation of a man who has lost his humanity through the socio-economic environment in which he lives.

In the beginning of the story, Gregor wakes up and realizes his human body has transformed into the body of a hideous bug.  He curses his job, saying, “What a strenuous career it is that I’ve chosen!  … There’s the curse of traveling, worries about making train connections, bad and irregular food, contact with different people all the time so you can never get to know anyone or become friendly with them. It can all go to Hell!” (Kafka).  This shows he finds little if any pride or pleasure in his career.

Karl Marx’s views on the relationship between the worker and his or her career depends on if the person is using his creativity and finds pleasure in his work and that he is doing it for himself, or if the worker produces whatever product and toils only for the benefit of his employer with no recognition for his labors.  If the latter is the case, then the worker has alienated himself from his own identity and from his own humanity (Sokel).

This is apparent in Gregor’s complaints about his drone-like occupation and the literal physical change of his humanity to that of a vermin, which is considered nothing more than a parasite and the lowest creature one can be (Sokel).

Gregor acquired his position as a salesman a few years earlier to pay back his parents’ debts to his boss that had incurred when his father lost his job. Living as part of the base structure (working class) of society, Gregor took on the faults of his parents – their debts – and the responsibility for supporting them and his sister.

The money he made went to paying his parents’ debts with little coming back to him.  He explains this situation to the chief clerk when the latter comes to Gregor’s family’s house by saying, “Being a commercial traveller is arduous but without travelling, I couldn’t earn a living.  … You’re well aware that I’m seriously in debt to our employer as well as having to look after my parents and my sister, so that I’m trapped in a difficult situation…” (Kafka).  Gregor goes on telling the chief clerk of his challenges as a travelling salesman, saying, “Nobody likes the travellers” (Kafka).

Gregor’s boss is part of the superstructure – the well-educated businessman’s sphere – and Gregor is in the proletariat/working class–base.

Because Gregor is toiling for his father who is not working and whom the latter reaps the benefits of Gregor’s labors by receiving the majority of his son’s wages and gives him very little, Gregor’s father represents the capitalist and Gregor, the alienated, dehumanized laborer (Sokel).

His father’s negative view of his son is illustrated in the text, as it reads, “His father had decided to bombard him” (Kafka), and his father “threw one apple after another” (Kafka) with the last one hitting him “squarely and lodged in his back” (Kafka).  This apple stayed in Gregor’s flesh as a reminder of the cruel actions of his father.

Gregor became the lowest living being in the house, which is shown through the family’s maid calling him an “old dung beetle” (Kafka) and threatening to smash him with a chair. He’d become even lower than the lowest of the working class.

With this physical change came Gregor’s mental change where he felt himself the vermin he’d turned into and consented to this state.  He’d resigned the position of breadwinner.

This left the parents and sister to figure a new course ahead.  Gregor’s mother toiled sewing various garments while his sister, Grete, worked as a saleswoman at a fashion shop, and learned shorthand and French at night to hopefully better her chances in careers later on.  Gregor’s father did not take up a job, hence changing the dynamics of the household once again since Gregor’s transformation.

His parents ended up renting out one of their rooms to strangers and served them meals.  The living room and kitchen had become occupied and dominated by the lodgers, which represents the family’s enslavement to the capitalistic society noted in the text that says the lodgers “sat up at the table where, formerly, Gregor had taken his meals with his father and mother; they unfolded the serviettes and picked up their knives and forks” (Kafka).

Through Gregor’s loss of identity and humanity in the socio-economic environment in which he lived, he became the sacrificial lamb for the system.

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

Works Cited
Bertens, Hans.  Literary Theory:  The Basics.  3rd ed.  London and New York:  Routledge, 2014.
Kafka, Franz.  “The Metamorphosis.”  Gutenberg.org.  20 May 2012. Web. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5200/5200-h/5200-h.htm. Accessed 12 August 2017.
Sokel, Walter H.  “From Marx to Myth:  The Structure and Function of Self-Alienation inKafka’sMetamorphosis.”  The Literary Review.  Web. http://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/david.brenner/engl2333/course-materials-required-reading/copy_of_argument-research-termpaper-essay/suggested-sources-stage-2-for-research-papers/source-kafka-and-alienation.  Accessed 12 August 2017.

Relationships in Shakespeare’s Era and Today

orsino and viola

(Orsino & Viola by Frederick Richard Pickersgill)

Although human nature tends to be consistent in how it behaves and interacts in various relationships, such as between siblings and in romantic connections, an analysis can show how these relationships in cultures through the Elizabethan period in which Shakespeare reflects in his works, to the current era, have changed and how they’ve relatively stayed the same.

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the play reflects the Elizabethan culture of its time in how women were considered of lesser stature than men (Sharnette), the roles of the upper class and the commoners, and how it is centered around the festival of the twelve days of Christmas, even named after the twelfth night on the eve of Epiphany Day (“Twelfth Night”).

The theme of relationships is essential to Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, because it demonstrates masking of the characters’ true identities causes confusion until their true selves are revealed. Once they no longer hide who they are, this brings about strengthening and growing romantic relationships for characters, Viola, Orsino, Olivia, and Sebastian. But it also produces the painful recognition of one’s own delusions of self-importance and unreciprocated love in the case of the character, Malvolio. These interactions can be seen in any generation of the history of human relationships.

In Shakespeare’s time, women were considered emotionally and physically weak and required the care of male relatives or husbands.  They were property of men and were expected to grow up to become wives and mothers with no other ambitions.  Those women who were able to work outside the home were employed in domestic occupations, such as maids or cooks.  They were not permitted to be lawyers, doctors, or politicians.  In addition, women were not permitted to be actors on stage (Sharnette).

The prohibition of women holding any jobs held by men is apparent in Shakespeare’s plays where women dressed as men in order to get jobs men possessed, such as Viola’s disguising herself as Duke Orsino’s young page.  The relationships between men and women and how they interact with each other are paramount in Shakespeare’s works.

In Shakespeare’s era, the twelfth night or eve of Epiphany was the last evening of festivities before the actual day of Epiphany and the Christmas season officially ended (“Twelfth Night”).  The twelve days of the Christmas season have festivities each day, and at the beginning of the celebrations, a person is chosen to play the Lord of Misrule, who is in charge of the Christmas festival, which allows men and women to relax their traditional roles and the regular order of things is reversed, or turned upside down.

In other words, the townspeople take on the opposite role of who they are in social status and sex.  For example, a peasant is chosen to be the Queen for that evening, and the Queen is then disguised as a peasant.  Women can dress as men and vice versa.  There are masquerades and pantomimes in these festivities.

lord of misrule epiphany

The Lord of Misrule’s reign ends at the end of the evening on the eve of Epiphany, or the twelfth night, and then all social statuses and traditional roles return to normal (“Twelfth Night”).

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night depicts the reverse in gender roles and social statuses and shows how these changes cause disorientation and anxiety for some of the characters involved in romantic relationships (Shakespeare 641-69).

In Twelfth Night, the protagonist, Viola, disguises herself by cutting off her long hair and dressing in male clothing which makes her nearly indistinguishable from her twin brother, Sebastian, who she believes drown in a shipwreck that washed her ashore only days before.

Because of the culture in which Viola lives, she must mask her womanhood in order to secure a job to support herself since she has no living male relatives to take care of her.  She thinks of this as a temporary occupation until she decides what she will do with her life as she still mourns the loss of her brother.

When she becomes the young page, Cesario, to the Duke Orsino, she quickly falls in love with him and is left in a terrible position of hiding her feelings for him to continue to support herself financially.

The duke is in love with a countess named Olivia.  His love is more of an infatuation, and he enjoys being immersed in the feelings of falling in love.  He sends Viola/Cesario to pass on his loving words to Olivia. Because of Viola’s beautiful way with words, she attracts both Orsino and Olivia.

Orsino is naturally drawn to Viola/Cesario because of the feminine traits she unintentionally exudes.  An example of this is when Viola/Cesario talks about love from a woman’s point of view. When Orsino asks what she knows about women and love, she says:

  Too well what love women to men may owe:

  In faith, they are as true of heart as we.

  My father had a daughter loved a man,

  As it might be perhaps, were I a woman,

  I should your lordship.

                                                                        (2.4.116-20)

When the Duke asks of the daughter’s history, Viola continues by saying:

  A blank, my lord.  She never told her love,

  But let concealment, like a worm i’th’bud,

  And, with a green and yellow melancholy,

  She sat like Patience on a monument,

  We men may say more, swear more:  but, indeed,

  Our shows are more than will; for still we prove

  Much in our vows, but little in our love.       

                                                                        (2.4.122-30)

Through Viola/Cesario’s perception of a woman’s love, Orsino ponders this and is drawn to Viola/Cesario (Shakespeare 652).  Likewise, in Viola’s personal awareness as a woman of what words move women, Olivia listens to Viola/Cesario and is drawn to Viola/Cesario instead of the duke.

olivia from 12th night painting

(Olivia from Twelfth Night painted by Edmund Leighton)

Olivia had sworn off men because of the recently double loss of her father and brother within months of each other.  She is left alone with no male guardian much like Viola’s situation, but Olivia is left financially well off in a beautiful house.  She had kept herself veiled and closed off from men until that time.  With the knowledge of how women think and respond to certain words and tones in language, Viola/Cesario is able to persuade Olivia to come out of mourning and consider the duke. But the countess also notices Cesario, and falls in love with him specifically because of Viola’s personal understanding of what women like to hear (Shakespeare 656).

Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, masks his true feelings for her, as well as his belief that he is above his current station in life.  He is disillusioned with self-importance and puffed up with arrogance and conceit.  This is revealed when he is in the garden before finding the letter Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman in waiting, forged claiming Olivia’s love for him.

Malvolio sees himself marrying Olivia, saying, “To be Count Malvolio” (2.5.36).  His pride paves the way to his belief that he can marry the lady he is serving, saying, “There is example for’t; the lady of the Strachy married the yeoman of the wardrobe” (2.5.40-1).

malvolio in yellow stockings

Malvolio dresses in outdated yellow stockings and fixes up his hair as if he is a young man, believing from reading the contents of the letter, that this is how Olivia wishes him to present himself to her, which only succeeds in making him look like a fool.  Olivia questions his health, if he is feeling all right.

Malvolio ends up locked inside a dark building–the nasty work of Sir Toby and his cronies.  They claim he’s gone mad.  Through humiliation and discovering the truth–Olivia does not love him (Shakespeare 669)–Malvolio learns he cannot be someone or something he is not and leaves his position at the Countess’ house.

When Sebastian shows up at the grounds of Olivia’s house, she mistakes him for Cesario.  But soon, both Sebastian and Viola are standing across from each other, and they are moved by seeing each other, as their sibling bond is very strong.

Viola reveals she is indeed his sister, and because of Sebastian’s being alive, Viola is able to tell who she truly is, which brings about relief, joy, and love Orsino has developed for his young page, and opens the door to Sebastian and Olivia’s new love for one another.

Since Viola and Sebastian are not of lower class, such as those of servants and pages, this makes their relationships with the duke and countess more socially acceptable in the Elizabethan era.

In Shakespeare’s plays, The Taming of the Shrew and King Henry the Fifth, the theme of relationships threads through and is the crux of the storylines.

There is camaraderie between King Henry and his men in fighting France, which he illustrates in his speech on St. Crispin’s Day by saying, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” (4.3.60). But there is also disloyalty and betrayal by three of his soldiers, one of which is one of his closest friends.

katherina and bianca

In The Taming of the Shrew, the display of the caustic relationship between Katherina and her sister, Bianca, is because of her jealousy of Bianca, in the beginning of the story when Bianca says, “Is it for him you do envy me so?” (2.1.12).

Additionally, Petruchio treats his wife, Katherina, as if she’s a mere pet to be controlled when he says, “My falcon now is sharp, and passing empty; And til she stoop, she must not be full-gorged, For then she never looks upon her lure” (4.1.181-83).

Throughout the play, their relationships show a lack of love but do turn in that direction for Petruchio and Katharina by the end of the play, once their masks of scornfulness are removed (Shakespeare 358).   Overall, their love is much more rough and defiant than Viola and Orsino’s.

In contrast to the loving sibling bond between the twins Viola and Sebastian, sisterly love is not totally repaired at the end of The Taming of the Shrew when the sisters switch their attitudes in which Katharina becomes obedient and Bianca does not (Shakespeare 358).

A contemporary example of the type of romantic relationship between Viola and Orsino is reflected in the 1958 movie, Houseboat, with the characters, Tom Winters (Cary Grant) and Cinzia Zaccardi (Sophia Loren).

Cinzia is an Italian woman from an upper class/wealthy family, for whom her father is a symphony conductor.  Feeling trapped under her father’s thumb and the stifling society of the rich, she escapes while her father is in the middle of a concert for which Tom and his three children are attending.

houseboat pic

At a fair nearby, Cinzia bumps into Tom’s youngest son, Robert, who also runs off feeling trapped, still dealing with the recent death of his mother (Tom’s ex-wife). Eventually, Cinzia returns Robert to Tom’s hotel room, and there is a misunderstanding on who she is and where she came from, and she is mistaken for a woman of lower class and a domestic servant. She accepts this incorrect assumption and pretends to be a nanny and a maid in order to stay away from her own life troubles.

As the story moves along, Tom has an attraction to Carolyn, his ex-wife’s sister, while Cinzia has fallen in love with him.  In the end, Tom does not agree to marry Carolyn, and has fallen in love with his nanny/maid.  He doesn’t know until the end of the movie that she is the daughter of a wealthy family (Variety).

Both Cinzia and Viola mask their true identities and fall in love with the men they serve, pretending to be someone and something they are not.  In the late 1950s in America, women had a bit more independence and freedom. They could obtain an education and were not forced into arranged marriages.  Women could also work outside the home. However, the jobs available were more stereotypical female positions, such as nurses, teachers, and secretaries, which paid less than men in the same jobs.

In present day, women have the freedom to choose who they wish to marry, can go to any college they want, and pursue whatever job they wish, for the most part.  Unfortunately, they still do not make the same income as men, generally speaking.

sisters from frozen

In regards to the sibling love of Viola and Sebastian, an example in contemporary society is the 2013 movie, Frozen, with the sisters, Anna and Elsa (Konnikova).  Their bonds are very close.  Of course, these are two sisters in comparison to a brother and sister, but the relationships are similar because of their devotion and deep love for one another.

Sebastian’s return from the dead gave Viola the strength and ability to reveal herself because with the realization that her brother was alive, she, once again, had a legitimate guardian and backing from a male relative so crucial in the culture in which she lived.

In Frozen, Anna, through her sacrificial love for her sister, saved Elsa from being killed by Hans.

In the same sense of sibling protection, Sebastian saved Viola from having to endure any more pain of love unrequited and masking her true identity.  As a result, Viola and Orsino’s loving relationship moved forward, and her unmasking gave way to the new loving relationship between Sebastian and Olivia (Shakespeare 665-68).

Modern sibling relationships are similar to ones from Shakespeare’s era, but women who have brothers are not reliant on them for their care.  They are able to be independent and care for themselves. Also, women today aren’t perceived as weak emotionally and physically by most of society.  Nevertheless, brothers are still considered protectors of their sisters in today’s society, and that’s okay with most sisters.  They appreciate their brothers’ looking out for them (Hall).

Shakespeare’s works have endured over time. Until his plays, there was little written and studied on the emotions and minds of people.  In his plays, Shakespeare revealed what it means to be a human being through the trials and joys of the relationships between people that his audience and readers up to the present day can relate to (Kotula et al.).

In literature, characters come to discover something about themselves and those they interact with.  Shakespeare displays this beautifully through Twelfth Night, for example, when Viola acknowledges her feelings for Duke Orsino, saying, “Yet, a barful strife!  Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife” (1.4.42-43).

Through the varied loving relationships in Twelfth Night, the revealing of a person’s true self and being oneself garners the love of others and the realization of who and what one is not.  Shakespeare’s works show the importance of love, friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice that are still relevant today.  Relationships require trust and loyalty, and these can only happen through honesty to oneself and to others.  These traits in relationships endure over the history of humanity.

~*~*~*~

Works Cited
Hall, Alena.  “Proof There’s Nothing Quite Like a Sibling Bond.”  Huffington Post, 22 Aug. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/sibling-bond-relationship_n_5688921.html.  Accessed 30 March 2017.
Konnikova, Maria.  “How ‘Frozen’ Took Over the World.”  The New Yorker, 25 June 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/sibling-bond-relationship_n_5688921.html. Accessed 30 March 2017.
Kotula, Nadia, et al.  “The Education Theory of Shakespeare.”  NewFoundations, 2011, www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Shakespeare.html. Accessed 18 April 2017.
Shakespeare, William.  “Twelfth Night.”  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  The Edition of The Shakespeare Head Press Oxford.  New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1994, pp. 641-69.
—.  “King Henry the Fifth.”  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Edition of The Shakespeare Head Press Oxford.  New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1994, pp. 485-519.
—.  “The Taming of the Shrew.”  The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  The Edition of The Shakespeare Head Press Oxford.  New York:  Barnes& Noble, 1994, pp. 329-58.
Sharnette, Heather.  “Elizabethan Women.”  Elizabeth R, 1998-2017, www.elizabethi.org. Accessed 6 April 2017.
“Review: ‘Houseboat.’”  Variety, 31 Dec. 1957, variety.com/1957/film/reviews/houseboat-1200419130/. Accessed 30 March 2017.
“Twelfth Night.”  Religionfacts.com, 2016.  www.religionfacts.com/twelfth-night. Accessed 6 April 2017.

Loss of Habitat & Life On Earth — A Heavy Weight On Our Shoulders

What’s going on in the world’s environment?

Overall, I believe many things happening to the environment are our doing. When we do good things for life on the planet, good things happen. When we do bad things, there are consequences, consequences of our own doing.

Only we are to blame for taking more than we need (greed). We think since we were given charge over all living beings and the planet, we decide who/what lives or dies and how to treat the Earth (pride). We can destroy animals’ habitats as we like and not face the repercussions. 

We do this in a myriad of ways: wars, over farming, over fishing, poaching, mowing down of rain forests, polluting the air, water, and soil with toxic chemicals like Round Up’s glyphosate and other deadly poisons like neonicotinoids that have been causing massive deaths of honey bees.

Then there are oil spills and tossing plastics in our oceans, rivers, waterways as if these are our personal trashcans. And it ticks me off because one of my pet peeves is LITTERING. Why anyone would think a body of water is a dumping ground for his or her own trash is beyond me. It’s careless, lazy, and cruel.

On October 29, the World Wildlife Fund released their newest data on the loss of animals. Between 1970 and 2014, we’ve lost 60% of our wildlife. These include “mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians” (Davis and Walsh).

What is the cause of this tragic loss? Us. Not the Earth doing its thing. Us.

In the article from the WWF, it states, “The top threats to species identified in the report are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and overexploitation of wildlife.” 

Perhaps this isn’t news to you. You’ve known about what’s happening with animals all over the globe. And you are one of many people who are trying to do what you can to support the lives of God’s creatures. Kudos. We do try to do our part.

I knew of recent animals that had gone extinct, like the black rhino (heartbreaking) in 2011, and the announcement that bumblebees are now on the endangered species list.  But I had no idea 60% of wildlife had been wiped out in the last 40 years. Devastating. 

WWF’s executive director of science and conservation, Mike Barrett, said in a Guardian article, ““We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

That’s a pretty devastating message. 

Recently, I saw a beautiful ad that Iceland banned as being too political. Below is the video via you tube. It’s not too political. It’s TRUTH. 

The truth is shown in that little minute and a half ad. The truth that there are only 7500 orangutans left in this world, losing on average a thousand a year. This ad needs to be out there for people to see.

Check your food products. If they have PALM OIL listed, consider not purchasing it. The orangutans’ habitat is being destroyed for palm oil. These poor animals have lost their food and homes. It’s killing them off. So please read the ingredients on the foods you get to make sure you’re not supporting their extinction. 

Two more pieces of data from the Living Planet Report for 2018 that was echoed in the ad above: “Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89% loss compared to 1970” and “Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline since 1970.”

What have we done to help keep God’s creatures alive and well? The WWF said that the creation of the US Endangered Species put in place in 1973, has helped 99% of the listed endangered species to be saved from extinction.

What else can we do to help? Wildlife and biodiversity issues have to stay as one of our top concerns.

Little things my family does is we don’t use straws at home or at restaurants because of the plastic problem in our oceans and other waterways. We try and buy recyclable and biodegradable items. We don’t use harmful pesticides on our yard. We don’t litter anywhere.

My family donates to certain organizations, but we don’t specify which ones because in our Orthodox Christian faith, we aren’t supposed to announce what we give for the good of others, but do so privately. 

All of God’s creation matter on this Earth. He assigned us to take care of this planet, and we need to step up and do that. He’s counting on us. 

“Love all creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand within it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” – Starets Zosima from the novel, The Brothers Karamazov

~*~*~*~

Works Cited

Carrington, Damian. “Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds.” The Guardian. 29 October 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/30/humanity-wiped-out-animals-since-1970-major-report-finds

Davis, Elizabeth and Katie Walsh. “WWF Report Reveals Staggering Extent of Human Impact on Planet.” World Wildlife Fund. 29 October 2018. https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/wwf-report-reveals-staggering-extent-of-human-impact-on-planet

Tarlach, Gemma. ” Pesticides, Not Mites, Cause Honeybee Colony Collapse.” Discover Magazine. 9 May 2014. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/05/09/pesticides-not-mites-cause-honeybee-colony-collapse/#.W-87aS3Mx0s