Research Paper: Analyzing the Psyche of the Novella: Leo Tolstoy and Franz Kafka

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[. . .] Clearly, he began to feel that he had been living his life too much by the rules and demands of others. He found this to be unbearable as he got older, and Ivan's own experiences and unhappiness demonstrate this sentiment.

Kafka also shows his own disillusionment within the character of Gregor. Gregor is unsatisfied with his boring position as a traveling salesman. Although it helps him provide for his family, he does not like the work and feels unappreciated by those he works for. This is ultimately the underlying cause of his transformation, as Kafka is making a statement about how settling for an unhappy life will only destroy you.

Each of these protagonists was unhappy and sick of their lives. As a result, the sickness of the mind erupts in a real physical condition. For Ivan, he contracts a deadly disease that slowly kills him over several months. His health continues to fade as he realizes more and more how much he wished he had lived his life differently. His grief, combined with his isolation from his family, only increases his illness. In this, Tolstoy is demonstrating how when left untreated, a sickness of the heart can cause damage in one's life, both literally through a physical illness and figuratively. As he gets physically worse, Ivan becomes more and more disillusioned with his own life. His condition worsens as he realizes he wished he had done things differently, and death comes to him eventually as a release for all the pain and suffering he had endured, both mentally and physically. In his death, Ivan can finally escape the pain of his illness, the loneliness of his isolation, and the despair of his depression.

Gregor seems to be physically afflicted by his own despair as well. Kafka presents a much more absurd disease, but still touches on the themes brought out by Tolstoy in his earlier work. Gregor turns into a giant insect, which is clearly not a real disease, but still personifies the unhappiness and stress that Gregor had been living with throughout his life. Here, Kafka writes, "one morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin" (Kafka 7). Obviously this is a metaphor for a character who had thrown his life away, just as Ivan had done in Tolstoy's story. Gregor is transformed into a hideous beast that cannot talk or interact with people in a normal way. He terrifies his family and scurries around like a cockroach. It is the personification of his despair and unhappiness. Kafka is providing a clear analogy for what happens when an individual lives a life they do not enjoy and do not have the strength to resist. That individual becomes unrecognizable, a vermin who has no ambitions or sense of self anymore. Kafka could have imagined himself becoming that very creature, especially with the description of Gregor's relationship with his sister. His sister is the one who cares for him the most, feeding him and cleaning his room; yet, she seems to be the most affected by him as a burden. She cannot go to school to learn violin and she constantly has to deal with a giant bug for a brother. Gregor sees this and is only further hurt by it. In the end, it is his sickness that isolated him from the very family he was working so hard to provide for. In this, Kafka is suggesting how living an unhappy life is never going to end well, even if it is for honorable reasons. In the end, Gregor dies like Ivan. He is finally given release for the physical prison his mind seems to have set up for him. Both characters chose that death is better than living, both for themselves as a way to ease their own pain, but also for their loved ones who they know they are burdening.

Both Ivan in Tolstoy's work and Gregor in Kafka face a horrible transformation caused by their own dissatisfaction and despair. This eventually leads to the two characters turning inward during a very troubling time period for them, as their families and loved ones continue to grow more distant. Eventually, both characters become a burden with their conditions, leaving their loved ones in a precarious situation where they are forced to take constant care for someone they detest. Clearly, there is a common theme demonstrated by both the authors, who seem to have been in very similar frames of mind when writing each unique story.

References

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Lulu. 2008.

Kennedy, X.J. And Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Fiction. 10th ed.

Proulx, Travis, and Steven J. Heine. "Connections From Kafka: Exposure to Meaning Threats Improves Implicit Learning of an Artificial Grammar."

Psychological Science 20.9 (2009): 1125-131. Print.

Tolstoy, Leo. The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Interactive Media. 2013.

Tolstoy, Leo N. A Confession. My Confession, My… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Analyzing the Psyche of the Novella: Leo Tolstoy and Franz Kafka.  (2014, June 10).  Retrieved April 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/analyzing-psyche-novella-leo-tolstoy/2047745

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"Analyzing the Psyche of the Novella: Leo Tolstoy and Franz Kafka."  10 June 2014.  Web.  22 April 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/analyzing-psyche-novella-leo-tolstoy/2047745>.

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"Analyzing the Psyche of the Novella: Leo Tolstoy and Franz Kafka."  Essaytown.com.  June 10, 2014.  Accessed April 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/analyzing-psyche-novella-leo-tolstoy/2047745.