Among all the great works that we have read this semester and, in my opinion, even among all the modernist texts that we have read so far, I feel that Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is indeed a great work and is one of the best thus far. Not only does it check points off the guidelines for being a great work since it delivers a message that is both relevant then and now, which reflects the burden of responsibility and sacrifice, but it also uncannily matches the weird situation we are in now.
While it doesn’t contain significant arguments for debate as compared to Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and its ageless “At least it wasn’t me!” sentiment, Kafka’s novella still packs a punch with Gregor and his transformation into a giant bug. His and his family transformations and the way the people around him reacted, are some of the ways in which the text puts itself on top as a great work as they are analogous to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
In that case, I feel that Gregor’s giant bug metamorphosis predicament could be the same as China’s struggle. Even in the early onslaught of the coronavirus, people are quick to judge and shun Asian people, specifically the Chinese, for simply because their appearance added by the burden of carrying the blame for the spread of the virus, the same way the characters in The Metamorphosis felt disgust against Gregor. As a domino effect, people are quick to reject the Chinese and their establishments, such as their restaurants, because of the fear that the food prepared might be carrying the virus. It is in this way, I believe, that Gregor’s metaphorical death could be said the same for them. It led us to enforce a stay-at-home order and keep a good distance from others, which we feel are for the better, the same way Gregor’s family believed that his death was for the betterment of their lives.
On the other hand, I feel that Grete’s caring nature is what also makes this text a Great Work as it evokes a feeling of reassurance. Throughout the story, despite other people’s rejection against him, Gregor always had his sister by his side. As an analogy to the present time, I feel that Grete is comparable to our healthcare workers who struggle to do their best in taking care of the infected people while also looking out for themselves. Like the people who have had to suffer losses due to the virus, I think that it would have been easy for Gregor to feel the need to kill himself due to the prejudice he experienced, but fortunately, his sister Grete was always there for him.
In the end, in these trying times, I believe that we should all be Grete and extend a helping hand.