The Grotesque and Physical Degeneration in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis

Abdullah M. Dagamseh1 & Faisal Rawashdeh2

1Yarmouk University, Department of English, Irbid, Jordan, 211-63. Email:

2Yarmouk University, Department of English, Irbid, Jordan, 211-63. Email: 

 Volume 10, Number 3, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n3.14

Received August 03, 2018; Revised October 13, 2018: Accepted October 27, 2018; Published November 03, 2018.


The question of the grotesque and theories of degeneration emerged in late 19th century Europe and the early decades of the 20th century. We argue that in The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka uses the grotesque and physical degeneration to express a corresponding anxiety about the continuing physical retrogression of Man in the twentieth-century. Moreover, we claim that Kafka’s main character, Gregor, is an entropic body reversing the biological bases of evolution and progression as theorized by many Darwinian evolutionists and Victorian social scientists. In allowing space for the articulation of organic degeneration, Metamorphosis not only attests to the sentiments of 19th-century degenerationists and their predictions of the continuation of this neurotic cycle of retrogression in the following century but also complicates the gothic representation of physical decline by bringing the grotesque into a high degree of prominence. Our reading of Kafka’s novella is informed by Wolfgang Kayser’s and Kelly Hurley’s insights on the subjects of the grotesque and degeneration.

Keywords: Kafka, Metamorphosis, Grotesque, Degeneration, Entropic.