Theory of Determinism in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
An analysis of how the first paragraph of The Metamorphosis supports the theory of Determinism . The theory of determinism states that all events are the consequence of prior events. Determinism is based on the scientific theory of cause and effect. An example of cause and effect is as follows: if a glass were to fall on a surface and break, then its breaking would be as a result of the collision of the glass and the surface; indicating that every occurrence has a cause. The literary work — The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka– tells the story of a man named Gregor Samsa, trapped in a figurative hell.
The Metamorphosis, acknowledges the theory of determinism by using literary to prove that Gregor Samsa’s state in hell is caused by his antecedent earthly characteristics and actions. The first paragraph of The Metamorphosis is especially important for proving determinism because of its various literary devices that allow diverse interpretation. The first paragraph provides a summary of the entire story: it portrays the setting to be hell, and then provides hints of why the protagonist is in hell.
The first paragraph illustrates that Gregor Samsa is in hell. Although the story never directly states that the setting is hell, the diction and tone found in the first paragraph prove that it is hell. It refers to Gregor Samsa, stating: “his many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes. ” The main adverbs expressing tone are “pitifully” and “helplessly. ” From the solemn tone of the words, it is clear that the author has sympathy for the character.
Because the author’s choice in diction was to use the word “pitifully,” it can be concluded that the character -Samsa- is suffering terribly. The word “helplessly” indicates that there is no where out of his pain. Using the No Escape Thesis – a traditional theories of hell – with those descriptions, Gregor Samsa is in hell. The No Escape Thesis states, “It is metaphysically impossible to get out of hell once one has been consigned there. ”
The description of how helpless Samsa was illustrates that he was ‘consigned’ to that state, which was ‘impossible to get out of. Hence the setting of the story could be declared as hell. The paragraph therefore provided the reader with a background to aid the readers understanding of the story and make it open to inferences. In accordance with the theory of cause and effect and determinism, if someone is condemned to hell, then that person is in hell because of the indignities he or she committed on earth. Therefore, Gregor Samsa being bound in hell indicates that he had committed some indignities in the past.
Nevertheless, such condemnation to hell — as a consequence of earthly actions — is also expressed in other works such as No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre and Dante’s Inferno. (The play No Exit is set in hell and exposes the earthly actions characteristics of its characters that led them to hell, while in the epic poem Inferno, Dante takes a journey through the various levels of hell where the people are punished according to the vices they practiced on earth. ) These works of literature support the idea that punishment received in hell is pre-determined by the characteristics of one’s lifestyle when on earth.
In terms of cultural setting, the first paragraph had a lot of imagery. For example, it uses the phrases “armor-hard back,” “rigid bow-like,” and “numerous legs. ” The main adjectives from these phrases are ‘hard’, ‘rigid’ and ‘numerous’. These words connote the lifestyle of a soldier or an army: an army is usually made up of strong rigid soldiers, working best when it contains numerous soldiers, and its members carry weapons and armors. Soldiers tend to be prisoners of a system; they are controlled by rules and work under the command of authority heads.
The fact that these adjectives, which are characteristics of a soldier or an army, are used to represent Gregor Samsa shows that Gregor Samsa lives a life similar to that to a soldier and works under a system where his affairs are regulated. Such characteristics describe the life lived in a communist system. Therefore, from these adjectives found in the first paragraph of The Metamorphosis, the cultural setting has been determined to be a communist community. This means that Samsa’s take on hell is being trapped in a communist system.
In concurrence with the theory of determinism, his being in hell is caused by prior vices practiced in life. Based on Dante’s Inferno, one’s hell reflects one’s vices on earth. Hence Samsa’s hell is caused by and reflects his vices on earth. Because his hell is set in communism, it can be determined that his flaws were of communist characteristics. The theoretic characteristics of a communist community include the equal sharing of wealth among individuals, individual’s productivity controlled by the government system and the lack of initiation.
Samsa’s earthly flaws would therefore be the flaws of communism which include his using free-will to choose to be a prisoner of the system. That will explain why his punishment in hell is his being trapped as a prisoner of a system, only this time he has no free-will; he has turned into the venim with communistic soldier characteristics and cannot change back. This probable explanation of why he is trapped in hell as a venim is confirmed in later parts of this literary work.
Samsa’s punishment on earth being caused by his lifestyle when alive acknowledges the theory of determinism which states that events are caused by prior events. The first paragraph of The Metamorphosis provides a summary of the entire story. An analysis of it tells the reader that Gregor is in hell and his being in hell is caused by his prior characteristics and actions while on earth. Thus it supports the theory of determinism. By proving that events have already been determined by prior events, the theory of determinism also proves that one has no free-will. Our actions are not our choices, but a follow-up of previous events