Diagnosing Gregor Samsa from Metamorphosis
Characteristic of Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The novella The Metamorphosis written by Franz Kafka narrates the case of the protagonist’s physical and mental transformation. At the beginning of the story, the author writers, “As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, her found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin” (Kafka 29). The author describes in detail how this transformed creature attempts to survive. Its transformation can be of psychotic nature because of detached and dreamlike reality. Gregor delineates himself from the external social environment, family, and work. He has problems with speech and severe deviations in outlook on the real world. In general, psychosis has been related with the loss of identity, accompanied with a range of visual, hallucinations, auditory, and somatic disorders. In this respect, in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the current interpretation of Gregor’s diagnosis is closely associated with psychosis followed by the loss of identity, and the recognition of fatal disease, which could be compared with AIDS.
Gregor Samsa and His Transformation in the Novella
While comparing the main character with other people who have disorders and psychological problems, it can be stated that Gregor was treated like a strange sick person especially by family members and society. In order to understand Gregor’s psychological state, the attention should also be paid to his personal background. As a result of his metamorphosis, it has been evident that the hero’s adhesion of his physical state makes his further actions logical, concrete, and predictable. Therefore, his reminiscence of a person who has AIDS explains some of the actions described in the story. Kafka recognizes that Gregor’s family members and family background in general is really complicated and is full of conflicting and controversial situations, followed by hatred and fights. Therefore, the protagonist’s detachment and desire to stay in the room shows his reluctance to communicate with the outside world, including his family. Gregor is depicted as a social outcast who is rejected by society. The presence of illusions and hallucinations is also revealed through the description of Gregor’s psychological state because the novella is regarded as a fusion between realism and surrealism, an allegoric representation of psychotic protection. In order to understand whether Gregor Samsa really suffered from psychosis, the analysis of symptoms should be conducted.
It has been mentioned previously that Gregor’s disorder reminds of the symptoms that are typical of AIDS. In order to prove the assumption, it is necessary to consider the evidence and define what characteristics symptoms and features of the disease relate to the hypothesis. For instance, Suominen, Kylma, Karanja-Pernu and Houtsonen have defined that in the majority of countries, the HIV epidemic is associated to the deviated behaviors that make individuals predisposed to the virus, increasing the infection risk (910).
In this respect, information on HIV, risk behaviors, and the ways of HIV transmission is essential in defining and understanding the groups who are under the risk of HIV. Currently, the prevention program relies on expanding knowledge about infection via sexual intercourse, which can allow them understand the misconceptions for the disincentive behavioral patterns. Therefore, information on behavior is important for evaluating the shifts, being the foundation for prevention efforts. AIDs and HIV are closely associated in terms of behavior. Specifically, Suominen et al. have assumed, “Risk behaviors related to HIV transmission include sexual risk behaviors or actions which jeopardize the individual’s physical and social health” (911). Understanding these issues can reduce the risk of infection and increase the awareness among the employees. In the story, it can be seen that Kafka eventually presents a metaphorical depiction of such illness as AIDS. At a glance, it is possible to conclude that Gregor’s metamorphosis is apparently a comparison for the disorder, such as cancer.
However, while analyzing the account on the family’s refusal and aversion, as well as significant changes in appearance, it seems that Gregor suffered from AIDS. This infectious disease was the most appropriate comparison that allows for understanding and categorizing the symptoms of the disease. It also makes understandable why family has refused to accept Gregor. In their turn, Gregor feels detached from his family. Additionally, the absurd nature of events complements the proposed explanation. All the characters of the novella react to these physical and mental transformations in an illogical manner. Specifically, neither of the family managers is interested in the actual reason for the metamorphosis; the family members are not astonished and there is no sign of fear or disappointment; all transformations are taken for granted. However, Gregor’s father and manager are the only ones that express fear and shock, but his sister sympathizes with his brother and tries to deal with the issue in a more calm and resigned manner.
The attitude to Gregor on the part of the family and colleagues shows the people’s reluctance of being involved in assisting and encouraging people who suffer from AIDS. In this respect, Bassett and Brudney explain “The origin of a pharmacologic solution to AIDS lies not only with science but also with a reluctance to address health system issues, the main barrier to deliver of care even with earlier guidelines” (201). Hence, the government and the community should take an active part in improving the availability of medication, as well as equal treatment of patients with AIDS. Facing the disorder in global perspective, reluctance of people to assist such people is explained by their fear of being infected. However, simple rules of hygiene can prevent individuals from the pandemic. Therefore, there is a growing need for increasing the number of social worker who would take control of these patients and ensure the normal way of living, as well as timely delivery of the necessary medication. These concerns, however, do not relate to Kafka’s character who lived in a different epoch, when AIDS could be regarded as a sort of plague which cannot be treated and which made people delineated from the society.
The refusal to communicate with the AIDs population is largely associated with the lack of knowledge on HIV transmission, as well as the attitude to AIDS patients. Similar concerns are represented in the novella, when even the family members fail to understand Gregor’s strange behavior and the symptoms he acquired. His estranged life showed his unwillingness to contact the external world because of the fear of being judged for his physical and mental deviations. In fact, there are numerous studies that prove that inadequate reaction and lack of knowledge make people behavior in the way Gregor and his family behaved. Specifically, Ali Abdi, Ereg, Ali, and Rahlenbeck explain, “myths surrounding AIDS are detrimental to healthy behavior – particular in rural areas where the level of education is low. Misconceptions about transmission were prevalent in this community to a considerable degree (249). Hence, lack of information and knowledge on the disease can ignite the misguided and unreasonable fear of contagion, fostering new misconceptions. Therefore, good knowledge and education in regards to AIDs can help individuals become more lenient to people with AIDS.
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The distorted self-image is also the psychological deviation of an ill person who wrongly perceives his/her body and transformation because of the disorder. In the case under analysis, Gregor Samsa also witnesses the distorted image of himself in a deviated manner. Specifically, the transformation seems so real that his behavior was self-harming as well. In the book, the author provides a description of the distorted transformation and Gregor’s refusal to accept his body. He would have needed arms and hands to raise himself; but instead of those, he had only these many little legs, which continually fluttering about, and which he could not control anyhow (Kafka 32). They have argued that distorted body image can be underexplored among the patients suffering AIDS and that compliance with dysmorphic disorder leads to greater dysfunction.
The distorted image of the disease makes the protagonist itself to develop the wrong perception of the infection. Lack of knowledge about the disease and its symptoms prove that the Gregor is inadequately perceived by society, and, therefore, he does not know the accurate algorithm of how to behave in this situation. The allegorical representation of his physical states explains why consequences of social detachment and the reluctance of the community to accept people who differed somehow from the majority. In this respect, when it concerns AIDS, the first step should involve identification and education. Identification implies that people with HIV should undergo blood testing and diagnosis; it should also be recognized that they are infected. Second, people should be education on the prevention measure to minimize the spread of infection. Proving people that AIDS can be treated, the main means of protection is prevention of infection. These practices include two major rules remaining abstinent and being committed to one partner.
Although there is no direct evidence that Gregor has some incurable disease, the reaction of the family and the manager is explained by the ignorance of the transformation occurred to protagonist. As a result of insufficient information, all the characters differently behave even though Gregor is a close person who needs care and support. It should be admitted that Mr. Samsa’s metamorphosis create a curious effect, which might be considered as symbolic because it largely depends on the personal interpretation. The subjective perception of the transformation process completely disconnects Gregor’s mind and body. Hence, his mind believes that he is still a human, although his physical image reminds of an insect. However, this physical perception is due to the actions he commits. The disconnection of mind and the body can be the result of both internal and external factors. On the one hand, the perception of his body could be due to this isolated lifestyle and lack of support on the part of his family. On the other hand, the failure to recognize Gregor as a personality could be another reason of his estranged behavior. Therefore, both factors have played a tangible role in his transformations.
While comparing AIDS people and Gregor’s disorder, the primary emphasis should be placed on the existence of stereotypes and prejudices. In particular, having AIDS is not so evident as experiencing transformation into an insect, AIDs can lead to the same detrimental effects as soon as it is discovered. The most common fear that people have in society is interacting with AIDS people. The protagonist also experiences the fear of communicating and interacting with people, which was accompanied with panic and the fear of being rejected. Specifically, the story depicts Gregor playing the violence for his guest. He walks into the living room and finds out that his guests are just disguised with the conditions in the house, as well as his family. There are many other similarities related to Mr. Samsa’s disease and AIDS patients. Specifically, both disorders have no cure. The main character does not know how to deal with the transformation; neither his family nor manager does. Hence, Gregor has to live with the awareness that nothing could be changed, which makes him less willing to communicate with people and reveal his problems. Although he reveals his appearance to the guest, it does not make difference to him concerning their attitude and reaction.
Both AIDS patients and Gregor have to adjust to the new conditions that limit his life, but not the ones predetermined by the disease. In particular, the protagonist has to recognize the limitations imposed by the society. While perceiving his family reaction, Mr. Samsa faces a common stereotype in today’s society; hence, if an individual belongs to a minority, it cannot be accepted in normal society with certain standards; as a result, Gregor cannot lead a normal life while being an insect. At the end of the story, the main character realizes that he cannot accept the transformation and death is the only option in this situation.
It is difficult to understand whether Gregor’s transformation is a fatal diagnosis or a death sentence. The protagonist had a choice – to live a life of an insect or to die, rejecting his new physical state. Like people with AIDS, some of the patients are not able to accept the diagnosis and, therefore, they decide to commit suicide because of their inability to reconcile with the new state. Therefore, learning the diagnosis can also make people think over many things, such as the importance of remaining human. In case with Mr. Samsa, there is a problem with understanding the disease because of lack of knowledge and information. Indeed, Gregor faces challenge while witnessing what has been left of his human features. The family also contributes to Gregor’s perception. When they enter the room, they cannot see the normal, usual Gregor they used to see; as a result, the hero does not feel himself a human either.
The above-presented analysis and evaluation from medical and psychological point demonstrates that Gregor’s disorder and transformation can be compared with the physical and psychological state of individuals with AIDS. The problem relates to medical, psychological, and social problems. From a medical viewpoint, both AIDS and Gregro’s transformations are irreversible and, there is no way out in this situation. They promote many problems and limitations in terms of lifestyle and identity perception. From a psychological viewpoint, Gregor behaves similar to those who learn they have HIV. He is frustrated and he prefers to lead an isolated life. His family members fail to understand his conditions because they do not know the genuine reason of his detachment. When they find out, they are disgusted and shocked, except for his sister who tries to accept his transformation. From a sociological viewpoint, the emphasis has been placed to stereotypes because many reactions and behavioral patterns are premised on the society’s attitude to people with AIDS. They are more guided by the feeling of fear and inability to accept the difference. In response to these attitudes, Gregor prefers staying an insect and living in an isolated apartment. He does not want anyone to learn his secret; otherwise, he will be considered to be a social outcast.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that The Metamorphosis is an allegorical description of the individual whose physical and mental state makes him isolated from society that is not able to accept the differences. Gregor’s physical condition can be compared with that of an individual with AIDS. There are many similarities, which make both disorders alike. First of all, they are incurable and therefore, diagnoses are fatal. Second, people with AIDS are rejected by the community because of the lack of knowledge and because of the fear of being infected. All these conditions prove that AIDS and Gregor’s malady are almost the same.