In works of fiction an author often expresses himself through the characters in the story. A perfect example of this symbolism is found in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. The similarities found between Franz Kafka and the story's central character, Gregor Samsa, occur in three main areas. Firstly, the domineering fathers of Kafka and Samsa controlled their lives and affected their every decision. Secondly, Franz Kafka shares many similar personality traits as the main character of the story, Gregor Samsa. Lastly, an even stronger link is the relation of the effects of Kafka's and Samsa's illnesses on their lives.

     In his father's eyes, Franz Kafka was always a failure. His father, Hermann Kafka strongly disapproved of Franz's budding writing career. Hermann's hot head and short temper led him frequently to beat the budding young writer (Delafaette 1). Similarly, in The Metamorphosis, Gregor's father is the first person who physically attacks Gregor in his insect state. Gregor's father is also the chief cause of Gregor's death, when he throws the apple onto the "vermin's" back. The apple infects Gregor and slowly rots, causing Gregor to experience a slow and painful death. Through out the novella, Gregor's father is portrayed as a man with complete control over his family and children. Mr. Samsa has complete control of the family, both emotionally and financially. The father at his discretion appropriated the income of the family. It can be interpreted that Gregor has been the subject of perennial abuse from his father. The fear of abuse is indicated in the line when Gregor states "…he was afraid of exasperating his father by the slowness of such a rotation and at any moment the stick in his father's hand might hit him a fatal blow on the back or on the head." Although in this context his father's exasperation is because of Gregor's insect state, it is clear that Gregor understands and fears his father's temper. Likewise, Kafka was subserviently tied to his father during much of his life. In the case of Kafka, however, the control was more emotional than financial (Kafka 2). The demoralizing influence of their fathers, however, was the same for both Kafka and Samsa.

     By the end of the novel, Gregor Samsa feels alienated by the indifferent, and sometimes hostile world around him. Kafka also felt this alienation through out his life. In fact, most of Kafka's works are known to symbolize his anxiety and loneliness in the apathetic world in which he lived. Kafka, like many German Jews of his time, felt much isolation in the society around him (Delafaette 1). This feeling of isolation is perfectly portrayed in The Metamorphosis. Kafka writes, "In a room where Gregor forded it all alone over empty walls no one…was likely ever to set foot." It is safe to assume Kafka felt the same feeling of loneliness that Samsa did for much of his life. The feeling of helplessness that Kafka experienced during his life is characterized in Samsa. Samsa feels trapped in his desk job, which his family depends on. To the outside world, Samsa seemed to be perfectly happy with his life, despite the dissatisfaction that raged inside of him. As an insect, Samsa feels he is powerless to make any changes to his roach-like state, and instead lives in seclusion, seemingly at peace with his horrible fate. Kafka also externally appeared to be in accord with his surroundings, though that probably was not the case.

     Many people believe that Kafka's contraction of tuberculosis in 1917 was somehow a direct result of the unhappiness inside of him (Delafaette 1). Whether this belief is true or not is trivial, because regardless of that fact there is a clear relation between Kafka's sickness and Samsa's metamorphosis into a bug-like state. Like Kafka, Samsa's days mostly consisted of his work related to his occupation, leaving little time for anything else. In the case of Kafka, a more direct connection between his contraction of tuberculosis seems to be his diligence in his work and the lack of care towards his general health. Kafka worked for many years for a semipublic Worker's Accident Insurance with generally good health until his sickness. At that point his obsession with his job and writing was so developed that he had become abnormal, something far from human. Likewise, Samsa's metamorphosis occurs at a point in time when most of his life is devoted towards his occupation. Samsa develops also into something "not human", in the most literal sense of the phrase. The tuberculosis that afflicted Kafka spread slowly into his larynx, and after a long and painful death, Kafka died in June of 1924 (Kafka 4). The rotting apple in Samsa's back can be seen as the tuberculosis that gave Kafka so much pain. Like the tuberculosis, the infection in Gregor's back slowly overtook his body, and gradually as Gregor's body weakened, so did his views of life and the society in which he lived. When Kafka's journal was discovered, some entries towards the end of the journal described his utterly gruesome and painful death. Although the public was never meant to see the entries, it has been reported that the vivid description of Samsa's death is not unlike that which was found in the journal (Kafka 4). If this is true, then the connection between the illnesses of Kafka and Samsa must be more than simple coincidence.

     The Metamorphosis is more than an exposition of Franz Kafka's thoughts of modern man in society. It is in fact a symbol of Franz Kafka's life and how he felt towards society during his time. Kafka's emotional dependence on his family is clear when viewing Samsa as a symbol of his persona. One cannot help but grieve for Kafka when viewing Samsa's horrible fate as one and the same with the author. The Metamorphosis is the most literal portrayal of the inner feelings of Kafka during the most painful and emotional moment of his life. This fact is supported by Kafka's journals, which leave no ambiguity towards the nature of his death. This reason is why Samsa and Kafka are so similar, and it is why The Metamorphosis is such a classic post-modern work.

Delafaette, Quill. Franz Kafka. 23 Nov 2000.

Kafka, Leni. Biography. 23 Nov 2000.