Namesake and Metamorphosis
The Namesake & the Metamorphosis
Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake" and Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" both put across the concept of a family attempting to make it in society, and particularly the concept of a young man trying to discover his identity in contrast to that of his close ones. However, whereas the former's storyline flows smoothly and provides readers with sufficient information for them to be able to understand it systematically, the latter involves a great deal of detail in his text, confusing readers and making it difficult for them to identify the main elements that the author wants to express.
One of the themes that are the most obvious in both manuscripts is the one relating to alienation, given that both Gogol Ganguli and Gregor Samsa have trouble discovering their place in society. Kafka's attempt at describing an account involving alienation is probably more complex because of the writer's background and because of the relationship he had with his father.
Given that Kafka's childhood memories were dominated by his father's authoritarian behavior, it is probable that the author attempted to channel the inferiority he felt during his teenage years through thinking of himself at that time as being similar to a helpless and repulsive bug. Kafka virtually saw himself as a vermin, just as Gregor came to wake up and discover that he had transformed into a bug. Kafka's father contributed to making his son feeling as if he actually was predisposed to being a failure in life and can to a certain degree be held responsible for the fact that "The Metamorphosis" was written. The events in Kafka's life are somewhat ordinary for a Jewish family living during the late nineteenth century (Eisner 75).
Having to live in accordance with his father's rules because of the fact that he was his employer made life particularly difficult for Kafka and his only refuge was in writing. It is only natural for such happenings to influence one in coming to believe that he is inferior. Gregor Samsa was obviously afraid of his father's strength, considering that he was impressed with the size of the man's boots, this most certainly being a reference to the fact that his father could easily kill him if he wanted to, as an ordinary bug had been no match for a powerful man equipped with enormous boots. The fear his family and society as a whole imposed on Gregor prevented him from being able to express himself and he was constantly controlled. Gregor suffers from an inferiority complex and is thus powerless.
It is difficult to interpret the exact events which influenced Gregor to transform into an insect. One cannot determine whether the transformation process was merely a materialization of the character's desires, or whether it was some horrible tragedy that was only part of his ill-fated life.
Certain elements in the book apparently indicate that the alienation was something Gregor wished for, as he did not want to continue his life as it was. Tired of giving his best in order for his family to have a decent living, the man probably wanted something in return for his acts. As a result, he chose to turn into an insect, an actual parasite that would depend on those who were stuck with him. His family consequently realizes that they could live without Gregor's assistance, become self-sufficient and abandone Gregor and the dependence they previously had on him.
Gregor's alienation began at an early age, when he was apparently left with no one but himself to provide for his family. He sacrifices himself so that his family's basic needs will be met and in spite of everything he goes through he still feels guilty when Grete has to take care of him, considering that it is his job to take care of his family, and not vice versa.
As the action progresses, it is revealed that his family did not actually need Gregor, nor did his employers. He was less significant than he believed he was and displayed an obsessive attachment to his family. It is possible that (even though he did not transform until the morning when he was found by his family and his superior) he was always a parasite on the inside. It appears that it was he who was dependent on his family, instead of his family being dependant on him.
At one moment in his meaningless life, he gets the chance to love someone but misses it because he feels that he would not be able to help his family if he were to befriend a girl. This chance could have brought him back to reality, as he could develop affection for another human being, eventually having the possibility to father children and detach from the lonely life he was leading.
The metamorphosis can also be considered to be proof of the abuse Gregor was subjected to by his family and by society in general. "Kafka's uniqueness as a narrative author lies, among other things, in the literalness with which the metaphors buried in linguistic usage come alive and are enacted in the scenes he presents" (Bloom 105).
Gregor's presence in a closed room can be a reference to how he is actually willing to alienate himself from society, either because he does not want to be a part of it or because he believes that he is exploited. Kafka was most probably interested in writing in agreement with a concept that was wide spread in modern thought-alienation (Bloom 105). His background assisted him in developing the character of Gregor Samsa.
Everyone expected him to assist them with what they needed and when he was unable to do so they turned their backs on him, demonstrating that he was worthless to them when he did not help. When they learn that they cannot reach Gregor, everyone becomes desperate and instead of showing affection they are furious, refusing to take into consideration the fact that Gregor could have been sick.
While the transformation is obvious when taking Gregor into consideration, there is another metamorphosis taking place in the book, one that is less apparent, but which is also important. Grete changes over the course of the book, reaching a stage where she is no longer the caring and innocent sister who only wants what's best for her brother. She ends up being a woman who is less emotional, showing lack of enthusiasm when it comes to Gregor's well-being.
The book surprises from its very start, as the readers are presented with the character of Gregor, his background, and with how he wakes up and discovers that he turned into a vermin. Obviously, this finding shocks Gregor to the point where he can no longer think properly. However, he soon comes to him senses and instead of worrying because of his appearance, he is more worried for his incapacitation. He realizes that he will no longer be able to work, given the fact that he cannot catch the train that usually takes him to his working place.
It is probably his very social statue that influenced Gregor's condition as a cockroach. Not only does he disregard his appearance, but he is certain that his job is more important than the fact that he is no longer human. One might be inclined to believe that Gregor's method of living is the reason for his situation, as he gradually got worse because of his job and because of his devotion to making money to help his family. His own person was not important for Gregor, as what truly mattered for the man was making money and providing everything to his close ones.
The metamorphosis can also be attributed to the fact that everyone around Gregor were unable to perceive him as a normal human being. His incapacity to escape his job isolated him from the world and because society considered him to be no more than a worthless insect, he turned into one. His family was able to live without him, just as his superiors were able to continue doing business without him. With no support from his family and become aware of the ineffectiveness he displayed while working, Gregor was a cockroach, both physically and mentally.
Whereas "The Metamorphosis" is primarily based on the relationship between Gregor and society, "The Namesake" goes at discussing a broader topic, one related to how an individual can be traumatized as a result of being unable to discover his personal identity. The Gangali family immigrated to the U.S. with the purpose of finding a better living. However, in spite of the fact that some aspects are better in the West, they cannot breakaway from their background and constantly feel that they cannot adapt.
The first difficult situation encountered by the mother, as a young Indian girl, was when she got married to an Indian man who lived in America. Because she didn't travel anywhere in her life before her marriage, it was hard…