Expressionism, Surrealism,
Existentialism, and
Freudianism in Franz Kafka’s
The Metamorphosis
By Hannah Bondy, Christina Cho,
Hannah No, and Deep Seal
feelings do
you get from
• In an entry in his literary
• Fear? Paranoia?
Disturbance? Disgust?
• This painting shows the
expressionist movement
in art
diary on 22 January,
1892Munch described the
painting as 22 January,
"I was walking along the road with
two friends.
The sun was setting.
I felt a breath of melancholy Suddenly the sky turned bloodred.
I stopped, and leaned against the
railing, deathly tired looking out across the flaming
clouds that hung like blood and a
over the blue-black fjord and town.
My friends walked on - I stood
there, trembling with fear.
And I sensed a great, infinite
scream pass through nature."
What is Expressionism?
Expressionism: a technique of distorting objects and
events in order to represent them as they are perceived
by a character in a literary work 1
- it relies on how one perceives it
- adding an abstract aspect to a particular piece
of literature to add depth to the story and the
emotions conveyed
The Metamorphosis expressionism: the
transformation of Gregor Samsa
into “an enormous bug.”
Images of the
The Metamorphosis – Was it merely a
Physical Change?
The Distortion of Reality
A vital trait of Expressionism is
the distortion of reality.
Gregor’s metamorphosis was a
deformation of his identity as a
human, which was his reality.
The entire aspect of a human
transforming into a bug is
extremely abstract, and to fathom
Gregor’s feelings, attaching an
emotional perception to the text is
extremely vital.
The Clash between Authority and the
• The conflict between the individual and authority
also forms a key aspect of Expressionism.
• Gregor and Kafka had similar life experiences
The Background…
• Subsequent to
Dadaism and basing
on the theories of
Sigmund Freud
• Surrealism started in
France in the 1920s.
The Philosophy…
• This was the style of
literature and art that
visualized subconsciousness and fantasy.
• These visions were inspired
from dreams and
• Feature elements of surprise
and juxtaposition of images
that would usually not go
together. (non sequitur)
The Metamorphosis & Kafka
• The Metamorphosis is a reflection upon Franz
Kafka’s life. His father was the one who would
make him feel as if he was making something out
of himself. Although his passion was in journalism,
his father wanted him to become a lawyer with a
wide range of job possibilities and financial
benefits. Kafka felt trapped and lived in guilt for
continuing his work as a journalist until his death.
The Metamorphosis
• Gregor was the one who supported his family as a
reluctant traveling salesman.
• After the metamorphosis: His parents did not work,
and his sister, Grete had to sacrifice her studies to
support the family.
• Isolation: Under large furniture he hid and his true
human identity was buried inside the shell of a bug.
Even his family could not bear to face him.
• Gregor’s father and the apples thrown, one
penetrated. Kafka’s conflict with his father and the
insults he had to deal with; he felt as vulnerable
and worthless as Gregor.
• The image of a person turning into a bug (possibly
a cockroach) is a surreal image of isolationism,
vulnerability, and inferiority.
Believes that everyone is responsible to determine
their own life’s purpose and meaning.
A person who tries to find meaning in his or her
life by accepting existence is an existentialist.
Existentialists make decisions based on things
that have meaning to them and only them,
ignoring the “rational”
Meaning is not given to humans by nature, but it
is actually created by the individual, by their
actions and interpretations.
How existentialism relates to Franz
Kafka’s novella “The Metamorphosis”
Gregor wakes up one morning and realizes that he
turned into a bug. What Franz Kafka was
symbolizing in this situation is that a individual
makes him/herself a certain way by how they think
and believe about themselves. Gregor probably felt like
a bug because he felt that his life was insignificant
and he was probably in the nadir of his lifetime, and
THAT probably made him into a bug.
-Freud's model of the mind drastically reduced the scope
and power of reason. In Freud's view, reasoning occurs in
the conscious mind, but this is only a small part of the
-The mind also contains the hidden, irrational elements,
which lie outside of conscious control, drive behaviour,
and motivate conscious activities.
-These structures call into question humans' ability to
act purely on the basis of reason, since lurking motives
are also always at play.
Transparency of Self.
-Another common assumption in pre-Freudian philosophy
was that people have immediate and unproblematic access
to themselves.
-Emblematic of this position is René Descartes' “I think,
therefore I am".
- central aspects of a person remain radically inaccessible
to the conscious mind (without the aid of psychotherapy),
which undermines the once unquestionable status of firstperson knowledge.
Freudianism in the Metamorphosis
• According to Freud’s ideas, Gregor’s turning
into a giant bug was a result of his mind,
but he did not know it.
Works Cited

similar documents