The Issue of Disease in The Metamorphosis and Frankenstein
The Metamorphosis is the story of Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who one day wakes up to find himself transformed into a monstrous bug. He retains his ability to think and feel as a human being, although no one but himself is aware of this fact. He is hidden from public appearance, shunned by his family, and eventually dies alone in his room. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is the story of a young scholar with an unnatural interest in natural physiology. At seventeen, he goes off to school and there develops a compelling interest in the forces that create life. So compelling is this interest that he creates a life of his own. But once he has done so, he is afraid of what he has done and shuns his monstrous creation. Nonetheless, from then on he and the monster are connected in a relationship that eventually leads to the death of much of the creator's family and the creator himself.
The incidence of disease is central to both The Metamorphosis and Frankenstein. In both texts, the disease appears to by more psychic than physical; however, in both cases it also adopts physical elements. Walter Sokel states that "the immediate function of [Gregor's] metamorphosis . . . is to prevent an imminent rebellion of the son" (170). Gregor has had to enslave himself to a company to which his father owes a debt. His language in describing his feelings for his job are laden with implicit references to his resentment at being placed in such a position. For example, upon discovering that he may be able to get out of bed because of his new physiology, Gregor does not seem particularly worried at having become a bug. Instead, he says to himself "Oh God, what a grueling job I've picked!" (Kafka 4).
One explanation for Gregor's seemingly unnatural response to his new physiology is that he believes he is still dreaming. However, another explanation that can be borne out...