General Question

Bocci's avatar

What comparisons can I draw from Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and Darwin's "On Natural Selection"?

Asked by Bocci (64points) June 5th, 2009 from iPhone

I know this seems like a bit of a random comparison but I was wondering if anyone could help me see the similarities between these books and their messages. This is part of a course I am doing at school but I would be interested to see what people without knowledge of the course think.

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9 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There can be a loose comparison drawn between the kind of survival necessary in life and in nature so as to succeed – the main character in Metamorphosis was affected too much by his environment and ‘died’, letting others who are more fit to have an easier life – I assume you’d know how survival of the fittest fits into “On Natural Selection”

Jeruba's avatar

I guess you could say that Gregor Samsa’s spontaneous mutation was not adaptive.

LC_Beta's avatar

Hmm. I haven’t read all of “On Natural Selection” but now I want to.

You could dive into Gregor’s failed survival techniques and compare then with Darwin’s assertions.

A question you may want to address right away is whether you are looking at Gregor as human or whether you think he’s a new species. That would change your whole argument as it related to Darwin. You could even compare and contrast the two possibilities.

Bocci's avatar

@LCBeta that is a really good point to make, and really interesting. When I first read “Metamorphosis” I wasn’t reading it in order to compare it to Darwin’s work. I always saw his transfomation as being symbollic. Perhaps seeing it as symbollic is more of a restriction in this circumstance…

SuperMouse's avatar

When he transformed, Gregor Samsa devolved in a way.

@Jeruba, couldn’t Samsa’s transformation be looked at as adaptive? I mean he changed into that slug-like/millipede thing in response to the atmosphere around him (or at least that is how I looked at it).

Jeruba's avatar

@SuperMouse, I thought it was reactive, a physical expression of a psychological state. (Kafka described it as more of a beetle. When I studied the story, I found a drawing of it.) I would call it adaptive—in the same sense that genetic mutations that allow a creature or species to survive are adaptive—if it had worked out for him, but it didn’t. He was not adapting to his environment. He could not take care of himself, suffered greatly, and soon died. That is not how evolution is supposed to work.

finkelitis's avatar

I think Darwin’s idea is essentially that what ends up being useful (in the context of natural selection) ends up being what is favored by nature. Kafka is interested in the tragedy of people who are somehow useless, who won’t succeed. From a Darwinian perspective, they’re just random efforts along the way towards the creature that is actually fit, but Kafka takes us inside their story. I actually think comparing “The Hunger Artist” might be even more compelling from this point of view: the artist tries to create a niche, despite being notably unfit. Then he’s replaced by a jaguar (right? It’s been a while). Essentially, Kafka’s is telling the tale of the losers, the unfit, who the ideas of Darwin (and others) predict should disappear without passing anything on.

Jeruba's avatar

Excellent answer, @finkelitis. My compliments. You said what I was trying to say, but you said it much better and more comprehensively.

josie's avatar

One is evolution, one is devolution.

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