by Franz Kafka
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
We know. We know. If we were to wake up and find ourselves transformed into The World's Largest Beetle (or if we found out that a family member got bug-ified), we wouldn't be dispassionate. We'd be passionate. We'd be freaked out. We'd be sobbing and vomiting and calling 911 and possibly Instagramming that (if we could hold our phone with our ineffectual little bug-feet).
But we're not Franz Kafka.
James Joyce once said that a novelist shouldn't make his opinions known in fiction: he should remain disinterested, as if he were standing outside his creation "paring his fingernails."
Reading The Metamorphosis, you get the sense that Kafka has some pret-ty well-manicured nails. Check it out:
[H]e would have to lie low and, by being patient and showing his family every possible consideration, help them bear the inconvenience which he simply had to cause them in his present condition. (2.6)
Inconvenience?! Present condition?! This passage is about Gregor being a freaking insect, not about him having his leg in a cast or being temporarily out of a job!
The story itself is sensational, absurd, grotesque—but the actual tone of the story is about as dispassionate as an article in The International Journal of Electrical Engineering.