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Kafka's Metamorphosis & Spiegelman's Maus

Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Art Spiegelman's Maus both raise issues of the meaning of being human, the parameters of humanity, and how people retain their humanity in the face of horrible conditions. Kafka raises issues of what are the boundaries of human life in Metamorphosis, while Spiegelman addresses the question of how people keep their humanity in extreme conditions. Inherent in both of these analyses is the central question of what is humanity--what is it that is being lost in the change that overtakes Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis and what is it that people are trying to keep in the extreme conditions of the Holocaust in Maus? An examination of the two books may show some conception of what humanity is, what it is that makes us human, and thus what it is we try to hard to protect.

In both books, the central character is not (or is no longer) a human being, and yet the issue of humanness is never far from the surface. The mice in Maus are if anything more human than human beings because they embody all of the ideals that humans prize. This fact is heightened by these characters being portrayed as mice--the characteristics we see in them are not the characteristics of mice and are seen in sharper relief as human concerns transferred to the world of the mice. Gregor Samsa went to bed a human being, but he wakes up a huge insect. At first, he is dismayed, but in time he accepts this change and even revels in it as differentiating him from the human beings who inhabit the rest of his domain. As we watch Gregor lose all contact with his humanity, it makes us question the meaning of our own. In both books, we are forced to face issues of what it means to be human and to what lengths we would go to retain that humanness.

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis uses a fantastic situation to create an allegory about the meaning of humanness and about the relationship of the individual to the world in which he lives. That re...

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Kafka's Metamorphosis & Spiegelman's Maus. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:24, May 31, 2020, from