When he had been changed into a monstrous verminous

When an individual does
not meet certain societal norms and values, they may be rejected by society and
seen as an outcast. In Franz Kafka’s The
Metamorphosis and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,
the realm of the outcast is explored through the lives of Gregor Samsa and
Frankenstein’s monster. Although the plot lines and time periods of these two
literary works are different, there are striking similarities in the major
themes throughout the text.  The themes
of alienation and isolation permeate throughout the stories and portray the
main characters as outcasts. Both Gregor and the Monster are faced with
multiple obstacles which they must attempt to overcome.

            “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious
dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous
verminous bug (Kafka 3).” This is the opening line and perhaps the best summary
of  Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Gregor worked as a traveling salesman and earned
most of the money for his household. Gregor lives with his father, who was
broke after failing at his own business, his mother, who was old and frail, and
his sister, Grete. Gregor awakes one day not feeling well and also realizing
that he is late for work. He then realizes that his human body has
metamorphosed into that of an insect. His parents knock on the bedroom door to
check on him and he assures them he is okay but will not open the door.
Gregor’s boss then arrives at the house to see why Gregor was late, for he had
a suspicion that Gregor was embezzling money from the company. Gregor was quite
unsure how to operate his insect legs and ended up rolling out of the bed,
causing a loud thud as his rigid exoskeleton hit the floor.

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being late for work and his boss standing outside the bedroom door now, Gregor
was so disturbed by his transformation that he did not want anyone else to see
him in his current condition. After his boss and his parents pressure him
enough, Gregor reluctantly agrees to open the door, a task in which he had
great difficulty. Gregor reveals his metamorphosis and his parents and boss are
disgusted and terrified at the giant insect that Gregor has become. Gregor’s
boss runs away and as Gregor tries to stop him, the boss thinks he is being
chased. Gregor’s mother faints and his father gets angry and shoos Gregor back
into his room using a cane and a newspaper. Gregor tries to go turn around to
go back into his room but has not yet learned how to walk backwards as an
insect so he has difficulty in doing so. When Gregor was attempting complex
maneuvers, “he was afraid to make his father impatient by the time-consuming
process of turning around, and each moment he faced the threat of a mortal blow
on his back or his head from the cane in his father’s hand (Kafka 30).” As
Gregor makes it half way through the door way, “his father gave him one really
strong liberating push from behind, and he scurried, bleeding severely, far
into the interior of his room (Kafka 32).” The creature was finally locked up
in his bedroom.

time passes, Gregor’s sister, Grete, cleans his room and feeds him. This is
most interaction Gregor has with anyone for a long time. He is still so
disturbed by himself that he hides under the bed when Grete comes in. After
being locked up in a room for an extended period of time and only seeing one
person when it is time to eat, it would start to feel like a prison.  One day, Grete has the idea of removing the
furniture from Gregor’s room so he would have more room to crawl around. When
Grete and the mother go into Gregor’s room to move out some furniture, the
mother catches a glimpse of Gregor and she faints. Later on, when they come
back to move more furniture, Gregor is guarding the portrait of the woman
hanging on the wall. Although Grete had good intentions when deciding to move
the furniture out, Gregor may have seen it negatively. He no longer had a need
for human furniture but removing them from his bedroom was stripping away his

Gregor had been out of work so long, the family was having trouble keeping up
with the bills so they took in three renters to stay in their house. Their plan
was to keep Gregor locked up in his room and keep his existence a secret from
the renters. This shows how the family really feels about Gregor now. They were
once so reliant on Gregor for income to pay the bills and now they are willing
to pretend he does not exist. One day, the door to Gregor’s bedroom was left
unlocked and Gregor came out into the living room when he heard Grete playing
the violin for the renters. The renters reacted negatively to the discovery of
Gregor. They proclaim they are leaving and not paying the outstanding rent. The
father gets quite upset at Gregor for scaring away the renters. He throws
apples at Gregor, one of which was thrown so hard, it stuck between two plates
on Gregor’s back.  After these events
transpired, even Grete, who had been most supportive of Gregor all along, agreed
that it is time for Gregor to go.

            In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,
we are first introduced to Victor Frankenstein, the eccentric scientist,
through a series of letters written by the Arctic Sea explorer Robert Walton to
his sister in England. Walton was seeking a new sea passage to the Pacific
Ocean from Russia. In one letter, Walton describes how his ship was stuck in an
ice field far from land when one day the crew spots a man “of gigantic stature”
leading a dog sled team across the ice only a half mile from their immobilized
ship (Shelley 14). The next day, the crew discovers an emaciated man, floating
on an iceberg. The crew bring him onboard their ship and begin to nurse Victor
Frankenstein back to health. After a few days of rest, Victor begins to tell
Walton of the creation of the monster and why he was chasing him into the artic
out of revenge for killing his family.

            The narration framing then switches to Victor
Frankenstein, as we learn of the events that led up to his arctic death. Victor
grew up in a wealthy family in Geneva, later attending university at
Ingolstadt, where he perfected his studies of chemistry, alchemy, and
electricity to create and bring to life a creature using body parts from
graves. Upon completion of his work, Victor was so disgusted and disturbed by
the results that he ran away. After recovering from a bout of illness, Victor
is informed that his little brother had been murdered. The family housekeeper
is arrested and sentenced to death for the murder because William’s locket was
found in her jacket. On his journey home to see his family, Victor sees the
creature from a distant and realizes who is responsible for the death of his
brother. Victor continues home and allows the housekeeper to go to the gallows
instead of informing his family about the murderous monster he has created.

            On a solo mountain climbing trip, Victor encounters the
creature yet again. This time, the monster makes Victor sit down and hear about
everything he has been through. The monster tells of how he came to life disoriented
and completely ignorant of the world around him. He had wandered off into the
forest and had to figure out how to keep himself alive eating nuts and berries.
He lacked the slightest understanding of trivial concepts like light/dark or
hot/cold. The first human he encountered was an old man living in a cabin, who
was so frightened and disgusted at the image of the monster, he fled in terror.
The monster later wanders upon a small village and was amazed at the sight of
human culture. When he starts to approach people in the village, they respond
by throwing rocks at him until he leaves. The monster later makes a camp out of
shed adjacent to a family home. Between the house and the shed was a small
crack in the wall, where the monster was able to observe the family and all the
interactions they have with each other in secrecy. Here, he learns language,
history, reading, writing, all from spying on the family. He is eventually able
to understand how he came to be, who Victor was, and how he was to blame for
his predicament. The monster begins to hate Victor and after being discovered
by the family he was spying on, he burns down the cabin and leaves to find his

            Upon arriving in Geneva, the monster grabs a little boy,
thinking he would be able to show him around. After the boy reveals that his
father is Victor Frankenstein, the monster kills the child. The monster finds
Victor and demands that he make a companion monster for him and says they will
run away to South America together. Victor grudgingly agrees and begins work in
a lab on a remote island. Before he finishes the monster companion, he becomes
disgusted and is unable to complete the project. When the monster finds out
Victor didn’t keep his word, he is extremely livid and says, ‘Shall each man find
a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had
feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn (Shelley
205).”. He then tells Victor, “I shall be with you on your wedding night
(Shelley 206).”

Victor perceives this as
a death threat and on the night of his wedding, he waited up all night with a
gun in hand, ready to face the monster, should he arrive. The monster, however,
had a more sinister plan and snuck into the cottage and killed Victor’s wife,
Elizabeth. To add to Victor’s list of family member deaths, his father passes
away from grief soon after the death of Elizabeth. Victor, having no family
left, vows to find the monster and destroy it. At this point, Victor begins
chasing the monster on dog sleds into the arctic.

            The narration frame switches again from Victor to Walton.
After a few weeks of being on the ship and telling his story to Walton, Victor
dies. The monster appears out of the mist and comes onboard the ship to tell
Walton his side of the story and bid his final farewell to his creator. The
monster proclaims, “But soon, I shall die… I shall ascend my funeral pile
triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames… to no longer feel
the agonies which now consume me or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet
unquenched (Shelley 276).” He then jumps out of the cabin window of the ship,
disappearing into the darkness, never to be seen again. Walton turns the ship
around and returns home, realizing scientific discovery is not worth losing
your life over.

In both Metamorphosis
and Frankenstein, both main characters
are seen as monsters and outcasts, due to a transformation that they go
through. Gregor Samsa, was alienated from his family while he was locked in his
room as a prisoner. As time went on, the family saw him less and less as human
and more and more as monster. The more the family stripped away Gregor’s
humanity by removing furniture from his room, the more his metamorphosis
progressed, to a point where he was able to crawl easily on the walls and could
only insect shrieks as communication. Gregor may have even started to accept his
transformative state (Silet, 2); however, Gregor’s feeling of isolation would
have been intensified when the renters discovered him and his family all turned
against him for good.

Also experiencing the feeling of isolation is Victor
Frankenstein’s monster. He is alienated by every human encounter he has except
for that of a blind man. Society did not care to understand the personality of
the monster but immediately judged him solely based on his physical appearance.
The monster’s feeling of isolation would have increased greatly when Victor
told him that he would make a monster companion for him, and then failed to
keep his word. At that point, the monster knew that he would be alone forever.
This is what drove him to kill the rest of Victor’s family instead of killing
Victor himself; so that Victor would be forced to experience the same isolation
the monster faced.

It is clear to see, then, the common themes of
isolation and alienation throughout the plot lines of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Gregor Samsa and Frankenstein’s monster are both faced with adversity in peculiar
circumstances. Although these two characters were the main subjects of the thematic
analysis, it can also be argued that they were not the only ones who suffered isolation
and alienation. Victor Frankenstein suffered isolation when he was the only one
left in his family. The framing of the novel also illustrates Victor’s and the monster’s
alienation as Victor’s story is told through the frame of Walton, and the monster’s
story being told through the frame of the monster (Kestner 218). The overarching
themes of isolation and alienation are thoroughly explored throughout these two
literary works. 


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