21 January 2013

What Kind of Bug Was Gregor Samsa?

Via Futility Closet I find Vladimir Nabokov's lecture notes on Franz Kafka's story The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung):
Commentators say [the protagonist Gregor Samsa turned into a] cockroach, which of course does not make sense. A cockroach is an insect that is flat in shape with large legs, and Gregor is anything but flat: he is convex on both sides, belly and back, and his legs are small. He approaches a cockroach in only one respect: his coloration is brown. That is all. Apart from this he has a tremendous convex belly divided into segments and a hard rounded back suggestive of wing cases. In beetles these cases conceal flimsy little wings that can be expanded and then may carry the beetle for miles and miles in a blundering flight. Curiously enough, Gregor the beetle never found out that he had wings under the hard covering of his back. (This is a very nice observation on my part to be treasured all your lives. Some Gregors, some Joes and Janes, do not know that they have wings.)
STUDENTS: Click here for Harold Bloom's guide to The Metamorphosis.