Shame and Alienation in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Karla Sharin Minar(1), Anton Sutandio(2*)

(1) Maranatha Christian University
(2) Maranatha Christian University
(*) Corresponding Author


This article explores Sartre’s concept of shame and alienation in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis through the portrayal of the protagonist.  By focusing on the interpretation of the characteristics of Gregor Samsa through New Criticism approach, this article reveals that shame and alienation may occur when a person realizes that one is judged by others and sees oneself through the eyes of others.  This way of looking at one’s identity is problematic because it creates complexity within the existence of the self.  Through his fantastical transformation into an insect, Gregor cannot help but seeing himself from his family’s point of view.  Instead of fighting for himself, he is made to believe that he deserves to be alienated.  From the analysis of the protagonist, it is revealed that his being selfess and dutiful in a way trigger the shame and alienation that result in his submission to death.    

Keywords: alienation, Kafka, Sartre, shame


Literature, Philosophy, Existentialism

Full Text:



Acharya, Vinod. 2011. “Nietzsche’s Meta-Existentialism”. Ph.D. Diss., Rice University.

Antin, David. 1995. Radical Coherency. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Davachi, Azadeh. 2010. “Existential Absurdity and Alienation in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Hedayat’s The Blind Owl”. MA the., Universiti Putra Malaysia.

“Dutiful.” OALD Online. (27 June 2017)

Harwood, Catherine. 2007. Franz Kafka’s Literature and the Law.

Hawkes, Terence. 2007. Structuralism and Semiotics. London: Routledge.

Kafka, Franz. 1995. The Complete Stories. Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. Prague: Schocken Books Inc.

Kaplan, Robert M. 2014. “Joseph K. Claims Compensation: Franz Kafka’s Legal Writings”. Advances in Historical Studies 3:115-121.

Khairunnisa, Anindya Firda. 2016. “Malformation and Isolation: Critique to Jewish Orthodoxy Found in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis”. BA Project, Universitas Gajah Mada.

Nabokov, Vladimir. 1982. “Lectures on Literature”.

Petrovic, Lena. 2009. “Plato’s Legacy: A Revision”. Facta Universitatis, Linguistics and Literature 1(7): 1-17.

Powell, Matthew T. 2008. “Bestial Representations of Otherness: Kafka’s Animal Stories”. Journal of Modern Literature 32(1): 129-142.

Rozuel, Cécile. 2014. “Otherness in Self and Organizations: Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to Stir Moral Reflection”. Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations 11: 25-50.

Saleem, Abdul. 2014. “Theme of Alienation in Modern Literature”. European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies 2(3): 67-76.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1993. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. New York: The Philosophical Library.

“Shame.” Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. OALD Online. (10 June 2017)

Sharma, Pallavi. 2015. “Problem of the Other in Jean Paul Sartre’s Existential Phenomenology”. Ph.D. Diss., Indian Institute of Technology.

“Selfless.” Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. OALD Online. (25 June 2017)

Sokel, Walter H. 1956. “Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’: Rebellion and Punishment”. Monatshefte 48(4): 203-214.

Taghizadeh, Ali. 2013. “A Theory of Literary Structuralism (in Henry James)”. Theory and Practice in Language Studies 3(2): 285-292.

Valk, Francina Cornelia. 2015. “Exclusion and Renewal: Identity and Jewishness in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and David Vogel’s Married Life”. Ph.D. Diss., Universiteit Leiden.

Wrathall, Mark A. & Dreyfus, Hubert L. 2016. A Brief Introduction to Phenomenology and Existentialism. Research Gate, doi: 10.1002/9780470996508.ch1

Zahavi, Dan. 2010. “Shame and the Exposed Self”. In Ed. J. Webber, Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism, edited by J. Webber. London: Routledge.


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 28827 | views : 18361


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017 Poetika : Jurnal Ilmu Sastra

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2503-4642 (online) | 2338-5383 (print)
Copyright © Poetika: Jurnal Ilmu Sastra under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

free web stats View My Stats