The poet Auden has said that Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man. This essay examines the truth of the statement based on Kafka’s novella, `The Metamorphosis`.
Modern man is in a predicament. He cannot please everyone. He cannot do any thing right. Kafka had personally experienced this situation. He vividly portrayed it in his writing, which are autobiographical in a sense. With `The Metamorphosis` as a basis, but drawing upon other sources as well, this essay begins by providing a definition of `modern man` and then examines the genesis, the nature and the consequences of the predicament. Ultimately the essay explores the way to come out of the predicament. `The value of a work of literature, or of any other creative endeavor, lies in its universal appeal. Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis is a widely acclaimed landmark of twentieth century literature. We can completely empathize with Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of The Metamorphosis. Samsa’s concerns are our concerns. W.H.Auden very aptly says, `Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.`  The Metamorphosis can be read at various levels. At the simplest it is a bizarre tale of the transformation of a young man into a `monstrous vermin`. How the provider of the family becomes an alien in his own home appears to be a tale of pure fantasy. But at a deeper level it is a tale of the author himself. Samsa, the name of the protagonist, is a cryptogram for Kafka.  Samsa’s family situation is very similar to Kafka’s. In a letter to his father written in 1919 (a letter which was never sent) Kafka accuses him of wanting to live off Kafka.  In the novella Gregor’s father is living off Gregor’s income despite having saved a reasonable sum of money from his collapsed business. But most important, Gregor’s suppressed desires and emotions are really those experienced by Kafka. We finally realize, without being told, that Gregor’s predicament is not only that of Kafka, but that of modern society as well. We come to this realization because we have read works of other writers that deal with this issue, we have known about people who have been plagued by this predicament and to a varying degree we have experienced it ourselves.`