Monday, April 7, 2014

The Empathic Civilization

In Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa's situation and mindset are good analogies for nihilism. Throughout the story, he goes from incredibly caring and selfless to becoming more selfish and eventually just apathetic. Gregor doesn't care about much of anything anymore, which is what nihilism is. Nihilism is also the theory that nothing can be known or communicated. Gregor loses the ability to speak fairly early on, and that means that he can't talk to his family and make them understand that he is still human on the inside. Gregor's lack of communication is what ultimately leads to him not caring about basically everything. Also, when Gregor dies, he is shriveled up and the family throws him away with the garbage. He had been reduced to nothing because he couldn't tell his family that he still meant something, even if it was only to himself.

The way Gregor dies is very interesting. He dies because he has an apple lodged in his back, which is nutrition and sustenance, but he can't reach it and dies of starvation. He's been stabbed in the back by his father, the hand that feeds him. Then there's the whole Old Testament parallel. The apple, the Forbidden Fruit, is the one thing that brings suffering and self-awareness into paradise. And in Metamorphosis, an apple is what brings an end to the life of a mere worker bug. Apples are also often used as symbols of a new beginning or coming full circle. Gregor dying after suffering for so long is very similar to how he is turned into a bug after working himself to death in his job as a traveling salesman. He is essentially forced to be something he doesn't like, shoved out of his old life, and pushed around by the whims of his family. And in both situations, he was made to feel worthless and was only given scraps. Gregor led quite an unfortunate life.