A Letter to Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis in 2021

The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, Book Cover

Dear Mr Kafka,

For a while now, I’ve wanted to write letters to your characters in The Trial, Poseidon and The Hungry Artist. Instead, I settled on writing to you directly, about Metamorphosis and its protagonist, Gregor Samsa.

You see Mr Kafka, there’s something about Gregor that strikes a deep chord with me. Gregor’s life is stuck in a loop. Through the story, he simply cannot bring himself to adjust to the new reality he finds himself in. The sole earner at home, Gregor’s family uses him as a tool and value him only for his ability to provide. Therefore, for all purposes, even before his transformation, Gregor was a living bug. An unthinking, working drone. Now that his physical being fully resembles his mental state, it is too distressing a reality for him to accept. However, even as a bug- Gregor’s thoughts remain intact, and his worries the same, untouched and thriving.

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, Cockroach, Illustration

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis

After his transformation into a bug, Gregor’s family does the bare minimum to help, by keeping him fed. However, he doesn’t enjoy human food anymore. This new body has different needs. Perhaps if he eats food more appropriate for a bug, it will symbolize an acceptance of this new reality… Gregor struggles to live in this morphed body, and even tries to fit his office schedule into this new bug life. But no matter what he tries, his manager declares his productivity unsatisfactory. What’s a working bug to do?

21st Century Prisoners

Gregor awakened in me a more centred approach to being stuck in a spiral. The sheer absurdity of turning into a bug one day to me underlines how we have become prisoners. Prisoners, not just to our thoughts, but to the very lives we lead.

All this makes me wonder about what it would be like to turn into a giant vermin in 2021? What occurrences would affect my metamorphosis? How would my friends and family react to this creature who appears overnight?

Undoubtedly, once the shock fades and the acceptance begins, my parent’s biggest worry would be- “Who will marry our daughter?” For if this horrible looking creature is to be the embodiment of their daughter for the rest of their waking lives, what is to be done? As a terribly unaesthetic insect, my options for a happy life would steadily narrow. I’m unsure if like Gregor, my worries would be contained to reaching the office on time.

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, Cockroach, Illustration
What if the roles were reversed, and there is a bug somewhere out there, who believes it’s human?

A Media Frenzy

My transformation won’t remain a secret for long. Either kids from the neighborhood- or more likely, my own brother, will post online about his huge, freaky insect-sister. There will be Facebook pages and Instagram profiles, long discussion threads about what his creature looks like, what it eats, where it sleeps. There will be wonder, disgust and curiosity, gossip, scientific and unscientific inquiries- all at the same time. I will either be a huge sensation, or face massive backlash, biased opinions and discrimination.

You are a cockroach now?! My God! Log kya kahenge??

Perhaps even the Government will intervene. As news of my peculiar predicament travels the world, I’d probably have to deal with rumors, fake videos and Twitter explosions. The general public will scrutinize my every move, and maybe even file petitions on what they think the Government should do with me. Could I be a threat to society? In the end, it may not be for me to decide.

As depressing at it sounds, I fear it will make me giggle more than anything else. My parents, who respect authority and power, would have to answer some difficult questions. Do they preserve their child’s privacy, or acquiesce to the Government’s plans and let them poke, prod and run experiments on my new insect body? Transforming from a human female to a human-sized insect wouldn’t save me from oppression. People in white coats will replace my previous oppressor, the Patriarchy.

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, Cockroach, Illustration

A Human Alien

One doesn’t need to be from outer space to feel alienated here on earth. Now that my physical appearance fits the part, society will treat me as a real alien. All general blame and negativity will be directed towards my insect form. They may attribute unexplained phenomena to my existence, or the polar opposite- put me on a pedestal and give me offerings of laddus and sweet milk.

Mr Kafka, you’ve spoken about alienation, disillusionment and existentialism all functioning together. If this is true, then we all suffer consistently and uniformly. If suffering is universal, who then is a true alien? Perhaps everyone is Kafka at some point in their lives…

Embrace the Absurd

The essential assertion I’m trying to make with all this, is the need to fine tune our attention to the absurd. Through your writing, we are able to reflect on our shared human shortcomings and existential anxieties. After all, in the end, the world we live in is the one we create. We have power to change for better.

If I were to reject going into the outside world, it would be akin to rejection my form- both physical and mental. Why, even by imagining all the absurd ways in which the world could treat my insect form, I consciously reject the idea of treating myself as I am meant to be. Isn’t it funny? It’s quite the catch-22.

I end this letter with a few lines I wrote when I first read Metamorphosis. At this absurd point in my life, I relate to them more than ever before-

“If only I was allowed
to spread my wings
In this war of monetization
I could have been to stars
Forgetting
That I forge my own universe.”

Yours faithfully,
S.


Also read: Why writers make better readers.

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