Get Shmoopesque with Kafka.
Looking for a nice, uplifting read? Then you've found yourself in the wrong spot—Franz Kafka just wasn't about the smiles.
This is a guy who could turn a human into a bug in the course of a sentence and who wasn't afraid to ask Deep Questions about the fundamental nature of the human condition. Don't let those simple sentences fool you: Kafka makes his readers work for it.
This course will help you through it all—from strange torture devices to labyrinthine bureaucracies, it'll be a crazy ride through Kafkatown.
Unit 1. The Man and His Work
This unit is a crash course in Kafka and his short fiction. Just remember short ≠ simple.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 5: A Bug's Life
If you're feeling a massive womp womp right now, then Kafka has done his job. This guy loved him some unhappy endings.
By the end of the story, Gregor was totally trapped: in his bug body, in his room, and in his family, who no longer thought of him as their son or brother. And so he chooses to die.
And that's what we call classic Kafka.
Most of his characters start out paranoid that fate is somehow against them—and in the end, it usually is. Death seems better than whatever awful situation they've gotten stuck in, and so they make their way out.
So while Kafka did believe in human agency—that is, in the ability to make our own choices and be our own people—it doesn't mean he thought those choices would turn out well. And after Gregor dies, the world moves on.
Nothing doing here—just the regular old predictable, boring misery of life.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.5: What's Up With the Ending?
Take a quick look at our discussion of What's Up With the Ending? to see where we stand on the not-so-happy ending.
Then head on over to our character analysis of Gregor to dig deep into what this guy's all about.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.5: A Talking Cockroach?
"The Metamorphosis" is anything but realistic. Yet for some reason, Gregor the Cockroach still can't talk. Why didn’t Kafka just make him a talking cockroach?
You tell us.
- Course Length: 3 weeks
- Grade Levels: 11, 12, College
- Course Type: Short Course
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1