by Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis Life, Consciousness, and Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph). We used Stanley Corngold's translation.
When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams [...] "What's happened to me?" he thought. It was no dream (1.1-2)
The philosopher René Descartes once wondered how it was possible to distinguish between dream and reality. His answer? God wouldn't be so cruel (read more). Kafka plays on the Cartesian reference here. How does Gregor know it's not just a dream? Isn't being a bug sure evidence that he's stuck in a dream? Would God be so cruel?
He saw clearly that in bed he would never think things through to a rational conclusion. He remembered how even in the past he had often felt some kind of slight pain […] which, when he got up, turned out to be purely imaginary. (1.8)
Here we see Kafka's irony coming out. Gregor thinks he can only think clearly if he's out of bed. But Gregor is thinking this thought while he's in bed. Thus how can we believe Gregor that he'll think more clearly if he's out of bed? It's roughly the same problem as the liar from Crete who says "I lie." Is the liar lying when he says he's lying?
He again told himself that it was impossible for him to stay in bed and that the most rational thing was to make any sacrifice for even the smallest hope of freeing himself from the bed. But at the same time he did not forget to remind himself occasionally that thinking things over calmly – indeed, as calmly as possible – was much better than jumping to desperate decisions. (1.12)
Yet another wonderful instance of irony. Gregor thinks that the most rational thing to do is to get out of bed at all costs. But then he also thinks that "thinking things over calmly" is better than "jumping to desperate decisions." Yet that's exactly what he does when he goes into a panic at the sound of his supervisor's voice – he just flips out of bed. This is not a rational act, but an act of thoughtless desperation.