A reader's first reaction to Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" ("Die Verwandlung," 1915) is often that it is a weird and crazy story and that anyone who wrote like that must have been somewhat less than "normal." Those who have been exposed to it and other Kafka writing, in schools or on the cocktail circuit, have learned (been taught) to soften that judgment somewhat and see Kafka's short story as illustrating "the modern experience," exemplifying "existentialism," or in more cynical moments have acknowledged familiarity with it and other examples of high culture as part of the packaging that is necessary in providing ourselves with status and the mark of being educated and “with it.” In this frame of mind we may admit that Gregor Samsa and other Kafka characters are "typical" in the sense that they are representative products of the mega-state and the impersonalism and bureaucracy of the corporate world, but probably only a very small number of readers see their daily lives reflected in "Metamorphosis." If we identify at all with Kafka's characters it is most likely only in rare and grotesque moments. Though possible, perhaps even characteristic, the "Kafkaesque" event, so we would like to believe, is not truly routine and normal, at least not in our own lives.



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