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Jofen, J. (1978). Metamorphosis. Am. Imago, 35(4):347-356.

(1978). American Imago, 35(4):347-356


Jean Jofen, Ph.D.

To understand Metamorphosis, we need to realize that Kafka does not identify “the abnormal” with “the bad.” In a letter to his sister Ottla, he writes on Dec. 28, 1916: “The abnormal is not the worst, for we consider as normal, (e. g. the World War).” (1)

In this paper, I will interpret Metamorphosis on three levels: the conscious, the preconscious and the unconscious. The first level includes Kafka's relationship to his father and to his family, as well as his attiude to political, social and religious issues. The second level comprises the fear of an approaching illness and eventual death from tuberculosis. The third level describes the unconscious desires arising from Kafka's deep love for his mother (sister), with the concomitant fear and hatred of the father.

Kafka's relationship to his father is symbolized by the ruthless executioner in The Penal Colony. The connection between the father and the court is not accidental since Kafka's father was “Expert at the K. K. Country and Criminal Court.” (2) It is the father who wears the uniform in the house even when he sleeps.

Nevertheless, it has been noted by Kafka scholars such as Walter Sokel and Ingeborg Heuel, that the father figures in Kafka's work show a shocking double face, namely: “a mixture of authority, power and dignity on the one hand and senility, weakness and absurdity on the other hand.”

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