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Jessica Yu

1) Please decide which critical lens you wish to use to explore the theme of
Alienation in The Metamorphosis
Marxist Lens
Claims
- the evolution of mankind, social groupings and interrelations of its
institutions and ways of thinking is largely based on the changing
mode of its material production (economic organization of producing
and distributing material goods)
o through a marxist lens, Gregor lives in a capitalist world where
there is a dominant class (boss) and subordinate class (Gregors
family)
o
- Changes in the fundamental mode of material production effect
changes in class structure in society (creates dominate and
subordinate classes)
o when Gregor was in charge of working and making money who
was the head of the family
o when his family members began working again they became
more powerful
o boss is the most powerful best position?
Especially in beginning when everyone is fawning over
him and Gregor thinks that his father should not let the
boss make all the decisions of if he could not
- Human consciousness is made up of an ideology
o Ideology:
Beliefs, values and ways of thinking through which
humans perceive what they think to be reality
benefit the interests of a the dominant socioeconomic
class as they largely make it
product of an eras economic structure and the resulting
class interests and class relations
false consciousness
People living in such a society accept it as the natural way
of life, inevitable

o bourgeoisie:
dominant exploitative class who own means of production
and distribution
o Proletariat
Wage earning class
- Literature: a method of expression and discourse between classes
Criticisms
- Literature maintains a degree of autonomy and sometimes is not
affected by the bourgeoisie ideology
- Georg Lukcs
o A great work of literature make create its own world

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Although the author has ideology, his characters may not even if
against the authors will
o A great fictional world
made of typical characters that may encompass the
Marxist reality
bringing to life the objective conditions of life
Bertolt Brecht
o Illusion of reality should be broken by an episodic plot, that
protagonists do not get audience sympathy and thus produces
an alienation effect
Louis Thusser
o There are small ideology classes (religion, legal political) in the
larger socioeconomic ideology
Althusser
o That which is not said in literature because it opposes ideology
reveals the gaps and contradictions in the ideology
Macherey
o Above is a form of repression
Antonio Gramsci
o Hegemony
Dominant socioeconomic group gains power by making
their ideology so common that the subordinate class
unknowingly accepts it and participates in their own
repression
o This theory allows for conflict btw classes and also change
o

2) Once you have made that choice, please read the appropriate attached
entry on that literary theory from the "Dictionary of Literary Criticism". (If you
can't fully make up your mind, feel free to scan through some of the other
entries to make your final decision).
REMEMBER: the idea here is that you don't need to "prove" the ways in which
the story "supports" or "challenges" or is "consistent" or "inconsistent" with
the lens you've chosen. (Though that may be something you want to think
and write about). The core goal here is to have you look at the text from a
particular perspective which is interested in particular issues, and see what
the text looks like through that framework; that is- how can this framework
help us make sense of and understand what is going on in the novel, and
what the novel might have to show us about Alienation.
3) As you are reading the entry on your chosen lens, please identify: ONE (1)
key question / idea you want to clarify about this lens / theory and ONE (1)
insight this theory can provide into making sense of The Metamorphosis.
Question: How can we prevent the cycle of stable society social revolution
(in response to contradiction) and repeat (since a ruling class/non Marxist
intellectuals leads the revolution)? Do humans have to be innately good or
selfless in order to create such a society?

Jessica Yu

Insight: Through a Marxist lens, Gregor lives in a bourgeoisie society, his boss
is the bourgeoisie and he is the proletariat. His family is not working/making
money so they are economic beneficiaries (intellectuals?). Through Kafkas
writing style gregor is alienated from the audience (quite passive). Is this
meant to shock the audience into seeing how we treat outcasts of society?
Gregors transformation is akin to a revolution because with his
transformation removes the bourgeoisie (boss) and sparks change. However
the people in control after the fact are the intellectuals? (family) who quickly
become quite capable of taking care of themselves growing in strength and
becoming the working class.
- gregor owns a house too large (he values possessions as per ideology
but that value is a detriment to his life self oppression)
- we dont even know what gregor sells alienated product
- gregor tries to save a picture of a woman in furs totally valueless in
retrospect
- The manager is callous and nameless
- Additional
- In addition, the fact that the manager has the time to personally
retrieve Gregor aligns with the Marxist belief that by controlling the
production and distribution of material goods, the bourgeoisie can
become the dominant class and profit without doing any real work.
- To this, I would argue that thanks to Gregors alienation, Gregors
family unlike the proletariat is in the unique position of holding
promising jobs with room to be promoted.
One page passage for CTA
Page 11
Mr. Samsa, the manager now called [] cause your parents serious,
unnecessary worry, and you neglect I mention this only in passing your
duties to the firm in a really shocking manner. [] And your job is not the
most secure.
But sir, cried Gregor, beside himself, in his excitement, forgetting
everything else
Big Questions
- What are the forces and sources that estrange us from ourselves and
others
Remember
- talk about context of passage in entire novel
- dont overlook complexities and contradictions
- dont forget key parts of book
- cite articles
Thesis
- The classist society of The Metamorphosis forces Gregor and his family
to act in a manner, which alienates Gregor from his work.
Things to mention

Jessica Yu
the manager represents the bourgeoisie and Gregor represents the
proletariat
- in the beginning of the novel, Gregors family does not work so they
are neither bourgeoisie nor proletariat, however they take part in
Gregors oppression
o at the end of the novel they reveal that their situation is actually
fine
o therefore Gregor working a job he hated for his family was
largely due to the societys expectation that he work for wages
- we never learn the managers name, which alienates him to the
audience
o he is only a callous person who wishes that gregor work
o he claims that he is worried about Gregors parents and that he
only mentions work in passing however according to a? Marxist
reading he only cares about production
- Antonio Gramscis hegemony is present and Gregor participates in self
oppression
o When faced with the managers threats, Gregor in his
excitement, forgetting everything else can think only about
how he can get to work. He continually ignores his own physical
transformation in order to
- Your duties to the firm: basically the societys views of Gregors
responsibilities based on ideology
Question:
- What does Gregors transformation from useful to useless mean to the
people around him through a Marxist lens?
- Family goes from not working to working is this a revolution? (when
intellects and working class lead a revolution to create a
-

Complexities:
Q: Gregor wants to work because of his fathers debt not because of some
social expectation doctrine
A: But his family forced that role upon him by not informing him of the true
nature of their finance
Q: Why didnt Gregors family tell him about their finances?
A: Perhaps he was more useful when making money, his family didnt have to
work at all then
Q: What is the state of Gregors family?
A: In the beginning they are sort of bourgeoisie but at the end they appear to
be working class
Outline
Thesis

Jessica Yu
-

The economic organization in Kafkas The Metamorphosis creates a


classist society, in which the bourgeoisie benefits from the
maltreatment and alienation of the proletariat from his work and fellow
workers.
Define bourgeoisie and proletariat
Define the money based system in which they live

Argument 1:
- Gregor hates and is alienated from his work
- Marxist perception on work
- Gregors work has turned into a job
- Contrast picture frames
- Why does he still work?
Argument 2
- Because according to the manager, Gregors family and Gregor
himself, Gregor needs to work to pay back his fathers debt quote
- The manager works to enforce this class
- Gregors family works to enforce this class
- Complication is gregors family bourgeoisie or proletariat?
Argument 3 and Conclusion
- Proletariat pays for the wealth of the bourgeoisie
- Hegemony Antonio Gramsci
- From the moment Gregor wakes all he can think about work even
though he hates it
- Manager can make gregor forget everything else quote
- Gregor should be concerned about his own well being but instead dies
as an alien
Close Textual Analysis
The economic organization in Kafkas The Metamorphosis creates a

classist society, in which the bourgeoisie benefits from the maltreatment and
alienation of the proletariat from his work and fellow workers. In this Marxist
reading, the motivation of each characters actions lies in their desire to
make money. The manager represents one callous and nameless bourgeoisie
who exploits Gregor, the wage earning proletariat. The bourgeoisie has a
single goal, maximize the output of the proletariat with the least input of
wage. The consequence of this money-based system is the competitive
maltreatment and alienation of the proletariat and in The Metamorphosis, the
death of Gregor Samsa. This viewpoint will be demonstrated through the

Jessica Yu
actions of the bourgeoisie and proletariat in a world controlled by a social
consciousness based on production and distribution,
It must first be stated that Gregor loathes his work. According to some
Marxist scholars, work should be a creative mode of expression in which
human beings can affirm themselves (Wikipedia). However, far from being a
mode of creative expression, Gregors job as a traveling salesman is
monotonous, unfulfilling and controlled by the bourgeoisie. Everyday Gregor
wakes at the same ungodly hour just to sell wares so alien that the reader is
unaware of what they are. Gregor states that if he didnt have to bear the
burden of his fathers debt, he would quit straight away. To Gregor, work is
synonymous with a job and a job is synonymous for working for a wage. He
does not work for pleasure, but instead for money, and is therefore alienated
from his work. The alienation of Gregor from his job as a salesman can be
contrasted to the pride and attachment he feels towards the wooden picture
frame he carved. In fact, it can be argued that those frames represent the
only time in the book that Gregors labor was self-controlled and selfbeneficial. If Gregor hates his job so much, the question that invariable arises
is, why cant Gregor simply quit his job?
The resounding answer of Kafkas society, which consists of the
manager, Gregors family and Gregor himself, is that Gregor needs to earn
wages to pay off his fathers debt. The manager argues that by not working,
Gregor is causing his parents, serious, unnecessary worry(Samsa 11) and
that he mentions only in passing Gregors neglecting of his duties to the firm
in a really shocking manner. However to the reader, it is clear that the
managers true motives lie in profit and efficiency. If that wasnt bad enough,

Jessica Yu
further reading reveals that Gregors family has a secret stash of money that
makes the familys finances significantly less dire than they appear. At this
moment, the class and motives of Gregors own family must be questioned as
like bourgeoisie, they benefit idly though Gregors work and alienation. One
complication of this reading is that by the end of the novel Gregors family
becomes working class, while Gregor ceases to work. However no matter
their class, it is clear that Gregors family knowingly contributed to the
exploitation and alienation of Gregor, a Marxist reading would say, all for the
sake of money and profit.
Unfortunately, the proletariat invariably pays the highest price for the
wealth of the bourgeoisie. In the case of The Metamorphosis, Gregor dies.
However the saddest thing is that the society in which Gregor lived in gave
him no choice but to die. Hegemony as described by Antonio Gramsci is the
unknowing acceptance of the subordinate economic class of the social
doctrine set by the dominant class. In this case, the manager and Gregors
family did a grand job of convincing Gregor to work tirelessly. Even when
Gregor wakes as a bug, a few words from the manager are enough to make
Gregor beside himself, in his excitement forgetting everything else (Samsa
11) think of nothing but work. It is obvious to the reader that Gregor should
be more concerned about his metamorphosis into a bug, however the nature
of the economics of the society has put Gregor into a position where since he
can no longer produce as a proletariat, he must die as an alien.