The Use of Point of View in The Metamorphosis and A Hero of Our Time

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Jamie Marks

Language A1: WL Assignment #1

November 8, 2002


Word Count: 1,487

The Use of Point of View in The Metamorphosis and A Hero of Our Time

          The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov are both insightful and unique commentaries on human nature. Though the works are from entirely different times and cultures, both function to investigate and express the authors’ cynicism of social convention. The Metamorphosis gives a vivid account of the repression suffered by its protagonist, while A Hero of Our Time offers a first hand look inside the mind of the oppressor himself. Kafka and Lermontov use point of view to illicit strong emotions from the reader in order to underscore man’s inherent need to control and manipulate others.

          Kafka uses a third person limited point of view to create sympathy for the protagonist by showing the effect the controlling and repressive disposition of his family has on him. Throughout the entire text, the narration is extremely detached, but as the novella progresses it shows more insight into the devastating effects the actions of Gregor’s family are having on him.  Initially, the prose is alarmingly dispassionate, creating shock within the reader. Gregor has turned into a “monstrous vermin,” and yet the narrator shows no emotional or vivid response from Gregor at all (Kafka 3).  The

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description of the metamorphosis is scientific and very factual in order to create an extremely unsettling tone. The narration uses vivid descriptions of Gregor’s body and movements as well as a direct lack of reaction from Gregor. An example of this can be seen when Gregor, upon realizing what had happened to him, merely tries to go back to bed and can’t, not because he is at all emotionally affected by being turned into an enormous bug, but because he is used to sleeping on the other side of his body and “in his present state could not get into that position” (Kafka 3). Through the unsettling voice of the narrator, the reader feels sympathy for Gregor because it seems as though he is incapable of having a human response to the situation. As the plot unfolds, the narrator reveals more and more about Gregor’s internal reaction to his metamorphosis. The effect created through only letting the reader see Gregor’s thoughts is to show the truly cruel nature of his family and the true effect it has on him. This can be seen in comparing the way the narration describes Gregor’s emergences.  The first time Gregor escapes from his room, the narration is scientific in nature, giving all of the details about what actually happened. More insight into Gregor’s psyche can be seen through analyzing the juxtaposition between this account of Gregor’s first emergence and the narration of his last. The last time Gregor leaves his room, the narration is less detached and more expressive; it reveals that Gregor thought “now maybe they’ll let me turn around” in order to outline Gregor’s good intentions and underscore the cruel and unfair way in which he is treated(53). Kafka especially utilizes point of view to underscore the effect of Grete’s transformation on Gregor.  The narration pays much more attention to the thoughts of Gregor in order to highlight the controlling and manipulative way in which

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she starts to treat him. Initially, Grete tries to help Gregor, by trying to find out what food he will eat. She soon takes on the full role of caretaker, because she has nothing else to do besides “get her mother one day when her father [is] out” (Kafka 32). However, Grete becomes less concerned with Gregor’s wellbeing and more concerned about her being in control of the situation.  For example, Grete notices that Gregor has been crawling around more and decides that his furniture should be removed in order to give ...

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