Friday, May 31, 2024

Kafka's Metamorphosis – A story about Repressed Homosexual Tendencies?


Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. PhD

The Prague German writer Franz Kafka wrote some of the most brilliant, disturbing, difficult, harrowing, and prophetic literature of the twentieth century (Hoffman, 1974) and his literary genius was discovered posthumously. Franz Kafka is a complex, even absurd, author, difficult to understand unless the reader is prepared to penetrate the meanders of his personality (Felisati & Sperati, 2005).

Kafka’s personality can be described as creative, intelligent, and introverted. His own sadness and awkwardness were evident. Kafka experienced health-related problems, family tension and antisemitism while living in his native country. Kafka frequently practiced fasting, vegetarianism and sexual abstinence. Fichter (1988) believes that there is evidence for disturbed psychosexual and gender identity development in Kafka. A psychoanalytic approach to Kafka reveals severe disturbances of these major developmental steps (Odağ et al., 2004). Kafka's Letter to His Father indicates his traumatic childhood (Castelon Konkiewitz & Ziff, 2018).

Franz Kafka wrote “The Metamorphosis” in 1912. In this story, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to discover that he has been transformed into a giant insect. Some indicate that Kafka’s Metamorphosis explores the degradation and transformative power of alienation. They also indicate the dehumanizing effects of modern life.

What is Metamorphosis? Is it a story about Repressed Homosexual Tendencies? Was Kafka a Latent homosexual? The Metamorphosis, which is a classic of existential literature, describes the repressed homosexual tendencies in Kafka. The entire Metamorphosis is an allegory about latent homosexuality.

At the end of the 19th Century and the beginning, of the 20th, a powerful wave of antisemitism ran throughout Europe (Löwy, 2024) and obviously France Kafka became one of the victims and experienced racial oppression. In Metamorphosis, Kafka might have made an attempt to highlight anti-Jewish sentiments that he suffered. As a Jew living in Prague, he firsthand experienced racial discrimination.

Kafka endured an identity crisis following his Jewish inheritance and his sexuality. His friend Max Brod once stated that Kafka was tortured by his sexual desires. Perhaps his repressed homosexuality is depicted in Gregor Samsa’s story. Can we conclude that Kafka was a closet homosexual? Perhaps he was confused about his sexuality and gender identity. These unresolved mental conflicts were narrated in Gregor Samsa’s transformation.  

Kafka couldn't only express his sexuality and gender but also come into touch with it internally, and it created internal mental turmoil in him. His internalized pressure is depicted in Metamorphosis. His self-estrangement experience can be read in Gregor Samsa’s story.  

Once Gregor Samsa turns into an insect, he becomes alienated and his family gradually rejects him. Samsa cannot come out of his room. He cannot face society. Around the clock, he hides in his little room, and he becomes a burden to his family. He is alienated from others and society as a whole.  

This would have been the repercussions that Kafka would have faced if his true sexual orientation were revealed. For Kafka, being gay in his society was a nightmare, and he specifies it with the word “monstrous vermin”. At the beginning, Gregor’s sister, Greta, was sympathetic towards him, but eventually, she too gave up on him. This gives Gregor Samsa no alternative but death. Perhaps Kafka knew his plight, and he went into seclusion, experiencing the symptoms of chronic depression. Like Gregor Samsa, Kafka discovered the meaninglessness and absurdity of his existence.    



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Felisati D, Sperati G. Famous figures: Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2005 Oct;25(5):328-32. PMID: 16602333; PMCID: PMC2639911.

Fichter MM. Franz Kafkas Magersucht [Franz Kafka's anorexia nervosa]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 1988 Jul;56(7):231-8. German. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1001787. PMID: 3061914.

Hoffman NY. Franz Kafka—His Father's Son: A Study in Literary Sexuality. JAMA. 1974;229(12):1623–1626. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230500041024  Löwy, M. (2024). Franz Kafka and Antisemitism - Historical Materialism

Odağ C. Preödipalden Odipale: Ikili Ilişkilerden Uçlü Ilişkilere Geçiş Sorunlarina Ozgü Bir Ornek [From the preoedipal to the oedipal: Kafka as an example of the problems of transition from dyadic to triangular relationships]. Turk Psikiyatri Derg. 2004 Winter;15(4):317-25. Turkish. PMID: 15622512.   








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