At the turn of the nineteenth century, women began one of their largest and longest revolutions for equal rights. These rights consisted of voting, higher education opportunities, and the breaking of their social role- caretaker, cleaner, dependent in men. A handful of Modernist era authors portrayed these struggles of equal rights. Their novels confluenced or reversed the male and female gender roles or just heightened the female role. Franz Kafka is an example of one of these authors.
In his novel Metamorphosis, he uses Gregor’s transformation and actions to empower Grete to conform to the male role-income for the family and independant. Dagmar Lorenz states, in Kafka and Gender, that “Kafka explores the full range of male gender stereotypes, including the unheroic, irresolute, and effeminate configuration” of men (176, Lorenz). Kafka usually had men as the protagonist in his novels and they were usually stereotyped and followed the male gender role. An example of this would be Gregor’s mentality and pressure to conform to a male dominant society.
When waking up only to see himself transformed into a large bug, Gregor worries more about is his inability to work and earn money than him being a large insect. Also, Gregor had to supported his family’s upper middle-class lifestyle, and was proud of his power and dominance in the Samsa household; stating that “he felt great pride for the fact that he had been able to provide such a life for his parents and sister in such a fine flat” (89, Kafka). Gregor’s nonchalance about his physical transformation and more worry for his family’s dependence on him further shows Gregor’s acceptance into the male gender role. Gregor’s transformation also threatens his dominant role as the ‘breadwinner’ of the family.
Gregor’s family, especially his sister, Grete, is dependent on him for financial and materialistic support. Gregor understand their need and endeavours to meet those need. For instance, Gregor “had earned so much money that he was able to meet the expenses of the whole household and … it was a secret plan of his that his sister, who loved music, should be sent next year to study at the Conservatorium”(96, Kafka). Gregor once again fits into the male gender role while Grete conforms to the female gender role. She depends on Gregor to conduct her future and leaves it completely dependent on Gregor’s actions and income.
But, Gregor’s transformation removes him from this role and empowers Grete to dawn the mantle of the male gender role.Grete fitting into role Grete exiting role Kafka’s Metamorphosis depicts ideas that were revolutionary in the nineteen hundreds. His writing of Gregor and Grete swapping gender roles emphasized the oppression and inequality women faced in that time period. Kafka was a strong believer in women’s having the dominant gender role- evident in his other novel- and men being the lesser one to them. And although it may seem ridiculous for Kafka sending Grete back to her female gender role, it may be possible that Kafka intended the reader to notice of the foolishness of a patriarchal society and to realize, in that time period, the inequality between men and women.