Living as the Bug: Kafka's the Metamorphosis as Read Through Critical Disability Theory
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Franz Kafka is a writer of short stories and novels from the early half of the twentieth century, born in 1883 to a Jewish family in Prague, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (and is now the capital of the Czech Republic). His stories are well known for their absurd plots and strange settings. Everyday life is twisted in Kafka’s works. His unique style of writing has even inspired other authors to write ‘Kafka-esque’ stories, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading or Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes. Much of Kafka’s work can be read with different lenses to find meanings and metaphors for other parts of life, like the absurdity of society or the senseless brutality of authority. Perhaps his most well-known story, The Metamorphosis, has a real-world analogy hidden underneath the surface story beyond the accepted theories. There are many interpretations and meanings that can be gleaned from Kafka’s works. This thesis will approach his story The Metamorphosis using critical disability theory to see how Gregor Samsa’s transformation into a bug is a metaphor for the reaction to, and treatment of, disabled people in modern society. From his physical and mental changes to how his family treats him, we can see the ways in which Samsa’s predicament serves as a literary parallel for disability in The Metamorphosis.