Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

The Impersonal Narrator
of The Metamorphosis
Roy Pascal

For his second story, The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung), Kafka adopted the same nonpersonal narrator [as in "The Judgment" ("Das Urteil")], and its first sentence proclaims the subordination of the narrator to the chief character. "When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning out of restless dreams he found himself in his bed transformed into a monstrous bug." From this moment the narrator identifies himself almost completely with Gregor, sees and hears through his eyes and ears, and accepts the truth of his metamorphosis as the victim himself must. Except in the coda of the last few pages, describing the revival of the family after the death of Gregor, almost everything we know is passed on to us via the consciousness of Gregor. To his thoughts we have direct access, the others we know as Gregor sees them through the open door and overhears their conversation. His thoughts and impressions are sometimes reported by the narrator much like his spoken words, in inverted commas introduced by such verbs as "thought." But they also invade many passages which, while seeming to express a narrator's view, betray the personal source by a characteristic word here or there. For instance, in the first paragraph, the last sentence might be read as a narrator's comment: "His many—in relationship to his bulk pitifully thin—legs waved helplessly before his eyes." But the preceding sentences have described what Gregor could see of his body when he raised his head, and we are meant to feel the "pitifully" is his thought as much as the "waved" applies to his vision.

The text continues:

"What has happened to me?" he thought. It was no dream.

____________________
From Kafka's Narrators: A Study of His Stories and Sketches. © 1982 by Cambridge University Press.

-95-

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