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Thread: Biblical Allusions in The Metamorphosis

  1. #1
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    Biblical Allusions in The Metamorphosis

    I read The Metamporphosis for the first time last night in one sitting, my first experience with Kafka. The story is compelling on many levels, and one that I noticed was Biblical. Samsa's downfall, like that of Adam and Eve, is brought about by an apple. Also, didn't God condemn Adam and Eve to crawling on their bellies, eating dust, for the rest of their lives, much like an insect? When Samsa finally dies, towards the end of March (Easter), he is forsaken and driven away by his people, his family, as Jesus was. Who or what do the three lodgers represent?

    I am struggling to connect this theory. Am I simply reading too much into this? Are these references isolated incidents of symbolism, or is there actually something to this running through the entire story? I would be glad to hear your thoughts.

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    Hard to say, but I wouldn’t personally peg Kafka as someone particularly interested in writing any patent religious/biblical references into his work. And if he did, considering his background, it’d most likely be more in line with the Jewish tradition (hence, he probably wouldn’t have been inclined to make any intentional parallels between the plight of any of his characters with that of Jesus). It does remain unclear, however, just how spiritually influenced he, and thus his work, really was. Frustrating on so many levels, isn’t he?

  3. #3
    Executioner, protect me Kyriakos's Avatar
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    Although i agree that Kafka wouldn't probably consciously have such allusions, there is nothing to rule out that unintentionally they were part of his work, since obviously he was aware of the gospels.
    Also he was a writer who did not write in entirely conscious states, as can be gathered from his diaries.

  4. #4
    ancient atoms hypatia_'s Avatar
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    even if he was conscious: just because he wasn't aligned with christianity doesn't mean he can't use them as a religious allusion. your evidence is certainly interesting, although i think it is impossible to definitively answer the question, as is the problem with many interpretations of long-dead authors :/
    “the sense of being which in calm hours arises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them and proceeds obviously from the same source.... Here is the fountain of action and of thought....

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    That's an especially interesting observation on the apple. I don't think I would have made that connection...

  6. #6
    Well Kilgore, you are definitely on to something which I believe is very much correct - and not only as regards the Apple. Kafka certainly read and studied the Bible throughout his life > he even could read Greek! > so it must be assumed that on some level he was aware of the parallels. In particular I might also note "Gregor's LOVE for his family!" - which much like Christ's Love for humanity is one that is very hard to justify from his "family's" treatment of him! Also note that he died at 3 AM (Christ at 3 PM) and note in particular his "exhalation" of breath - very much like John X-XII; finally the rising of the Sun (faint dawn - NOT raining as at the beginning!) and, not to be missed: the cleaning Lady's "best news ever" that she never got to explain >> all very Kafkaesque.... His other Stories have similar parallels to Christian themes which tend to be hidden unless you are looking for them... Good Luck.

  7. #7
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    If you read Kafka's journals and letters you will find that the Bible was most certainly one of the books that he repeatedly read throughout his life. A great many of his tales/novels build upon the Job narrative... with the individual struggling against superiors and their incomprehensible actions. Gregor Samsa's suddenly and incomprehensibly being turned into some vermin and Joseph K. arrested without any notice... for an unknown "crime" are very much rooted in the Job narrative. There are any number of studies of Kafka and the links between his writings and Biblical narratives.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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  8. #8
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    That's interesting.

    From The Castle I had the impression that he also delighted in mocking Christianity. At some point he referenced a decidedly Christian work (I forget which), but carried on further with this kind of awe for Klamm. K is the only one who doesn't believe in Him (even in his existence, maybe), but the rest just keeps it alive, even though they seem to be oppressed by it. If you take K to be a Christ figure (he seems to be towards the end), the idea that no-one would believe Christ is quite proposterous.

    That about the apple is interesting. It was the snake that God condemned to crawling and eating dust, because it had tricked woman into eating from the Tree of Knowledge (see Genesis 3, The Fall). From a social Jewish-Christian point of view, that is quite poignant, actually. Although Kafka was loath to put meaning to his work, there seemed to be eternal enmity between everyone and the Jews and between Kafka's own family and himself (sad really), something that God swore to do to punish the snake for tricking Eve.
    As to the three lodgers, do they bring gifts at the beginning? It could be an ironic spin on the birth of Jesus with them as the three wise men from the East or it could be something else. The Bible is full of threes, so there is bound to be three men somewhere.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide ŕ ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scčne VII)

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