The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
As Pre-AP students you are expected to be able to conduct in-depth literary analysis on texts of increasing complexity on your own. In an effort to make this somewhat easier for you, we will be teaching you the SIFT method of literary analysis. While most of the literary devices used in the SIFT method of literary analysis should be known to you, please use the slide show below for both a review and to understand the SIFT structure. You will need to fill in the SIFT chart provided below completely as you read The Metamorphosis.
Franz Kafka and "Isms"
from Glencoe Literature Library's reading guide
Kafka’s fiction is so rich and ambiguous that his short stories and novels can be interpreted in many different ways. Because of these many different interpretations, his work has been “adopted” by different schools of critics as especially appropriate to their beliefs and theories. Ultimately, no one way of interpreting Kafka seems broad enough to stand alone.
The early nineteenth-century movement known as expressionism was based on the belief that inner reality, or a person’s thoughts and feelings, are more important than the “objective” reality outside the person. In short, the response of an individual is more important than the object or situation that causes the response. Expressionist writers, painters, and other artists tend to portray this inner reality through the use of symbolic rather than realistic characters, exaggeration, distortion, nightmarish imagery, and fantasy. Expressionism grew out of the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and the dramas of Swedish playwright August Strindberg. It was most popular in Germany in the early 1900s.
Another movement that has claimed Kafka as one of its own is surrealism. Surrealism, or “super realism,” developed in France in the early 1900s as a reaction to realism and stressed the power of the imagination and dreams over conscious control. Surrealist painters like Salvador Dali depicted objects as they could never appear in reality, such as his famous drooping watches.
Another philosophical, religious, and artistic movement that has its modern roots in France and Germany is existentialism. Although it dates to the early 1800s, existentialism gained its most popular form in the writings of French writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in the years following World War II. While existentialism has many different forms, one of its most important elements is a belief that people are “created” by the experiences they undergo. It is action and making choices that give life meaning. Many existentialists did not believe in God, but rather felt that human beings were free to make their own moral choices in life.
One final movement that has claimed Franz Kafka is Freudianism, a theory of psychology based on the ideas of Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that every human action is influenced by the unconscious mind. Early experiences, such as one’s relationship with one’s father, have a profound effect on the development of the unconscious. Kafka’s complex relationship with his own father and the ways in which he addressed their strained realtionship in his fiction have especially appealed to Freudians.