How is there not a Kafka-esque super hero?
Of all the stories about people turning into things, Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ is the least adventurous and most realistic, if a story of a man waking up as a giant insect can be realistic. There’s no big reveal about how it happened, no hint of toxic waste or curses. Gregor just wakes up one day as a big beetle. Bummer.
His family go bat-crap crazy, you know what parents are like. He can’t get himself out of bed for ages, ‘cos we all know how long it takes bugs to get off their backs. His sister pities him and brings him food, and he learns to walk on the walls and the ceiling. His family all have to get jobs as he was the bread-winner and going to the office as a bug would be super-awkward, so Gregor hides in his room, getting depressed and not eating. At one point his dad loses it with him and throws apples at him, one breaking through his shell, and lodging in his back, where it goes rotten, as no one will help a bug out and remove it for him. He hears his family talking about how awful he is, and how they wish they could move away, and that they need to get rid of him.
Meanwhile his family has taken in lodgers to help makes ends meet, and Gregor is eventually discovered, and the lodgers move out as they are obviously wusses. The cleaning lady hits him with a broom, because she is obviously a proper mean old cow, and that is how they discover he has just gone and died of depression and starvation. Then Gregor’s mum, dad and sister go on a train ride and all feel lighter and freer as their brother is dead and they are all better off without him. O, happy day.
I have a soft spot for Kafka. He didn’t get on with his family *ahem* (see above) and in a world with lots of media images of happy families, father’s day, mother’s day, etc, well, I just want to give him a big ‘high five’. His family may not have beat or starved him, but that middle ground, of not being treated badly enough to be classed as abused, but not treated well enough to look back with a lot of fondness, and know deep down if you turned into a bug they’d throw apples at you, well, a lot of people are in the ground. I think a lot of writers are bred in that ground, too.
However, the saddest part for me is that Gregor didn’t realise the possibilities for someone who can walk on walls and ceilings. He basically turned into a kind of super hero, whole comic books could have been written about him, and his lair in the sewers, from which he emerged nightly, to cling to the ceilings of criminals and scare the crap out of them, then rubbed the sap from his pincers on them, infecting them with despair, sexual frustration and inner turmoil. .