To what extent is enlightenment achieved in

Title: To what extent is enlightenment achieved in Franz Kafka ‘sThe Metamorphosis, and Henrik Ibsen’sGhosts?

Both Kafka’sThe Metamorphosisand Ibsen’sGhostspresent images of households who fail to understand either each other or the universe around them. In order for them to make any sort of enlightenment, much agony and forfeit must be endured by both. In really different ways, each of these authors involves the characters with a journey towards enlightenment via an estimate of world: the surreal juxtaposed with the mundane, in Kafka’s narrative, and the past both ratting and ‘haunting’ the present in Ibsen’s play. At the terminal of both, a grade of enlightenment has been attained by each but non without both loss and surrender to life’s tests.

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Franz Kafka’sThe Metamorphosis, written in 1915, trades with the metabolism of a commercial traveler, Gregor Samsa, who one twenty-four hours awakes to detect himself ‘transformed in his bed into a mammoth insect’ [ 1 ] . Through the usage of the intimate narrative technique, the reader is instantly drawn into Gregor’s thought procedures which are much less concerned with the horrific alteration itself than with the consequence this will hold on the ‘exhausting occupation [ he’s ] picked on’ [ 2 ] , particularly as he is the exclusive agencies of support for his lazy and detached household:

[ … ] the storyteller identifies himself about wholly with Gregor, sees and

hears through his eyes and ears, and accepts the truth of his metabolism

as the victim himself must. [ 3 ]

Kafka besides plunges the reader into engagement with two of the major subjects of the narrative: the overpowering demands of work and the deficiency of communicating between Gregor and his household. The 2nd of these is farther developed as Gregor’s status is revealed to his household, who react with force and repulsive force.

All of this is delivered to the reader through Gregor’s ideas and feelings, with the accent on the practical troubles of his state of affairs ; it is as if by ask foring us to see the ordinary in the extraordinary, Kafka renders his main protagonist’s quandary more comprehendible, leting him to widen his narrative beyond the barriers imposed by the grotesque transmutation. Indeed, it is merely when the transformed Gregor is seen to be useless to the household and hence abandoned by them that any enlightenment begins to take topographic point, as gaining they have no option, the household begins to retrace its being without him and he succumbs to the ultimate negation of decease and the dry antithesis of enlightenment in its ageless darkness: Gregor is sacrificed by surrender to life’s decay.

Similarly, inGhosts, written in 1881, Ibsen sets out to demo his audience a disintegrating society in disconnected microcosm, each of the characters stand foring a separate but related subject which the writer wishes to turn to and, particularly in the instance of the church, onslaught. Such enlightenment as is achieved, comes approximately by the acknowledgment of the power of the past to ‘haunt’ the present and forsaking of such facets of it that continue to queer the hereafter. As Mrs Alving declares:

I about think we are all of us shades, Pastor Manders. It is non merely what we have inherited from our male parent and female parent that ‘walks’ in us. It is all kinds of dead thoughts, and exanimate old beliefs, and so forth. They have no verve, but they cleaving to us all the same, and we can non agitate them off. Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see shades gliding between the lines. There must be shades all the state over, every bit midst as the littorals of the sea. And so we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the visible radiation. [ 4 ]

Clearly, Ibsen intends his audience to see the past as a albatross of ‘dead thoughts, and exanimate old beliefs’ . If enlightenment is to be attained, the audience infers, so these must be cast off, buried. Further, by placing the ‘ghosts’ with the news media of the twenty-four hours, Ibsen emphasises the manner that the modern-day is interpreted by agencies of the archaic, and that the public is therefore rendered perpetually ‘pitifully afraid of the light’ . Yet Ibsen’s ‘obedience to his scruple of truthfulness’ [ 5 ] makes his drama forcefully bound towards the really ‘light’ which the characters have sought to avoid, nevertheless painful it might be.

The significance of the fact that this is addressed to the curate stresses the church’s counter powerlessness in the battle towards enlightenment. Mrs Alving is certain that the ‘cling [ ing ] ’ of the ‘ghosts’ merely ‘ can non ’ be ‘shake [ N ] off’ and the symbolic ‘inheritance’ of rot is symbolised by Oswald’s contraction of pox and his reiterating the orgy of his male parent, despite his mother’s attempts to forestall this. The curate can non look to accept ‘reality’ and cloaks himself in a self-deceit which Ibsen appears to state is clerically generic, as Manders speaks of ‘horrible, radical, latitudinarian books’ [ 6 ] . Mrs Alving’s derision of the spiritual patterns she hitherto strove to accept culminates in her mentioning to the pastor’s work as ‘pitiful defeat’ [ 7 ] . Enlightenment, hence, does non come via the supernatural but by the painful acknowledgment of the existent:

Ibsen viewed humanity through no rose-tinged eyeglassess [ … ] a high

proportion of the work forces and even of the adult females he presents are separately

hapless material and the society into which they coalesce seems to be fatally

unable to lift above their highest common factor. [ 8 ]

Ibsen’s effort to demo that for any sort of important enlightenment to take topographic point, society must alter radically is therefore rendered by throwing light upon the shadows of a household, ‘ghosts, both within [ … ] and without’ [ 9 ] , which does merely that without, nevertheless, felicity or fulfillment.

In Kafka’s narrative, a similar strength of enduring must be undergone if enlightenment is to be achieved. The transformed and powerless Gregor, like the insect on his dorsum ‘helpless’ [ 10 ] , progressively retreats into the darkest corners of his shriveling universe as his household isolates him wholly and their growing semblance, discovered by necessity, is juxtaposed by the increasing deepness of his darkness, the one escalating the other. The construction of the narrative, in three parts like the organic structure of an insect, is an drawn-out metaphor of this ageless battle between darkness and visible radiation, good and evil. For Gregor, his responsibility to his household was inextricably bound up with his very being and now he can merely detect what he one time purposefully sustained at the disbursal of his ain freedom. The absence of any account for his metabolism being sought or offered is therefore explained by its merely being another signifier of disaffection and imprisonment. When his beloved sister no longer connects with him, this negation of Gregor is complete:

“Gregor! ” cried his sister, agitating her fist and glaring at him. This was

the first clip she had straight addressed him since his metabolism. [ 11 ]

Grete’s lone acknowledgment of Gregor comes in choler as she seeks to protect her female parent and the leftovers of household life which they have. Once Gregor sees this, his enlightenment causes him intolerable hurting and signals his terminal. Having literally no manner to turn, an dry metaphor for his battle to absorb his transformed limitation of motion, he turns off from life itself whilst his household moves on.

In a similar manner, Ibsen’s drama is plunged into the inevitableness of hurting by disclosure of the truth. Mrs Alving abandons her hypocritical commemorations to her late, corrupt hubby and reveals the truth about him liberating the hereafter by lighting the shadows or ‘ghosts’ of the yesteryear: ‘People so easy bury their past selves’ [ 12 ] , as she says, and by raising them, she lays them to rest. Like Gregor, she excessively, refers to ‘duty’ as being a cause of the prolongation of hurting. Regina can travel on because of the enlightenment she has attained by the truth about her parenthood but Mrs Alving can merely assist Oswald to make the same negative enlightenment as Gregor: decease. Of the truth now revealed, Mrs Alving says ‘I have ne’er earlier seen it in such a light’ [ 13 ] and therefore Ibsen renders his characters both imprisoned and free at the same time.

Both writers can therefore be seen to render enlightenment via hurting. In the phantasmagoric narrative which Kafka Tells, ironically the world of the monotony and everyday activities of life can be seen through the extraordinary. Ibsen, nevertheless, throws a limelight on society’s lip service in microcosm by foregrounding the shrouded memories of an intrusive yesteryear. Enlightenment, hence, for both writers can be seen to be a double-edged blade since although it is desired its disclosure can besides be detestable. In both Kafka’s narrative and Ibsen’s drama, the concluding release of decease is seen as a possibility encompassed within enlightenment, true, ashen, happiness being at best achieved through agony and at worst through inhuman treatment. In both plants, this signifies the accomplishment of merely partial enlightenment by any of the characters created by either author and possibly indicates that enlightenment is ne’er to the full realised in life despite the acknowledgment and disclosure of the truth which forms an built-in portion of these plants.


Bloom, Harold, ed. ,Franz Kafka ‘s the Metamorphosis( Chelsea House, New York & A ; Philadelphia, 1988 ) .

Bloom, Harold, ed. ,Henrik Ibsen( Chelsea House, New York & A ; Philadelphia, 1999 ) .

Boa, Elizabeth, Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions, ( Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996 ) .

Gray, Ronald, Kafka ‘s Castle, ( Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1956 ) .

Ibsen, Henrik,Ghosts, trans. by William Archer, ( BiblioBazaar, Charleston SC, 2007 ) .

Kafka, Franz, ‘The Metamorphosis’ , Selected Short Stories of Franz Kafka, trans. Edwin Muir & A ; Willa Muir ( Modern Library, New York, 1952 ) .

Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten,Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900( Greenwood Press, Westport CT, 1997 ) .


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