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Ego Psychology and Kafka's Metamorphosis

Ego Psychology and Kafka's Metamorphosis

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Published by kmacvb747
This is my senior year research paper on Kafka's The Metamorphosis. I took the book and used it to explain Kafka defining Ego Psychology. I thought it was interesting, open to criticism and ideas
This is my senior year research paper on Kafka's The Metamorphosis. I took the book and used it to explain Kafka defining Ego Psychology. I thought it was interesting, open to criticism and ideas

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Published by: kmacvb747 on Jun 08, 2011
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08/15/2013

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McCall 1Kevin McCallE419TraversMetamorphosis Research Paper Kafka: An Unofficial Founder of Ego Psychology³When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.´ (Franz Kafka 3) With this line, Kafka opens hisshort novel,
The Metamorphosis
; a short novel in which, through the clever literal use of a phraseof the day, reveals a truth of the human mind.
The Metamorphosis
is Kafka¶s exploration of the birth of psychoanalytic theory, putting into word and story the dark mixture of a human mindunder crisis: the same ideas that Sigmund Freud, the blooming psychological theorist of the time,would rename 8 years later into the cornerstone trinity of Ego Psychology: Id, Ego, and Super-Ego.Freud and Kafka, although not directly associated with each other, are intertwined in their  beliefs of the human psyche; directly in their thoughts and publications, and through the analysesof their works. In 1911, Freud published an essay,
 Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental  Functioning 
, which is the first publication in which Freud, or anyone, created and used the ideaof Ego and instinct, creating two separate parties of the mind. He defined the concept as therational part of the mind (the Ego) warring with the pleasure (or, more commonly referred to assex) drive of man¶s inner mind, with the pleasure principle being unconscious and the Ego beingrational, conscious thought. Seemingly unrelated,
The Metamorphosis
was published a few yearslater in 1915.
The Metamorphosis
drove literary critics into deep discussions on the short novel;enough discussion for Stekel, Freud¶s top pupil, to devote a few paragraphs to
The Metamorphosis
in his essay
 Pathological Disturbances of the Instinctual and Affective Life
, published in 1917. Stekel had his opinion, ³diagnosing it (The Metamorphosis) as a zooanthropic
 
McCall 2 phantasy (wrong) of transformation into a louse (wrong) and hence as denoting the self-aimedsadistic component of unhappy homosexuality (probably wrong).´ (Stanley Corngold 88) WhileStekel viewed the work through a light of why the transformation, Freud saw somethingdifferent; eight years after 
The Metamorphosis
, the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego trinity concept was proposed in Freud¶s essay
The Ego and the Id 
, following the concepts and ideas that Kafka pushed through his characters in
The Metamorphosis
. A review of 
The Historical Kafka
revealsthat ³it is understandable that, on far slighter evidence, Kafka should often have been associatedwith Freud.´ (Richie Robertson 118) While their ideas were very similar, they (Kafka and Freud)are not directly associated. They had very different beliefs on the same topics; ³Certainly Kafkaknew about psychoanalysis, though probably from conversation«there were no books by Freudin his personal library, and he was scathing about the therapeutic aims of psychoanalysis.´(Robertson 118) Regardless of their opinions on the theories, it is likely that they took ideas off one another¶s works; not by intention, but by simply a case of great minds thinking alike, at leastin a particular scenario or thought process. ³Freud nowhere explicitly alludes to Kafka, althoughit is certain that he was aware of him.´ (Corngold 88) It is through the lens of this same idearelationship that
The Metamorphosis
becomes a masterfully crafted piece on the unconscious andEgo.The psychoanalysis of 
The Metamorphosis
, from an Ego psychology perspective of today, goes something like this: Kafka uses the Samsa family as a sample of a human under  pressure. Gregor in
The Metamorphosis
is the human mind, as the Samsa family represents the parts of the mind. Thus the book begins, with Gregor having been inexplicably transformed intoa monstrous insect overnight. In the first line of 
The Metamorphosis
, Kafka has alreadyemployed an impossible event to demonstrate the human mind. In Dorrit Cohn¶s words, ³The
 
McCall 3impossible, inadmissible fact, by gaining factual status, thus « becomes involuted, self-referential, and essentially concerned with its own irreality.´ (185) This initial impossible factspurs the human mind, the Samsa family, into the first instinct response, known as the ³fight oflight´ response. The unfathomable fact forces the mind to face it or flee from it. The initialresponse (after forcing Gregor back to his room) is to flee, since their brains cannot determineand agree how to fight the problem directly. Here the family splits up into their appropriatewarring factions: Grete shows herself as the Super-Ego, trying to do the most moral and societal,group-oriented actions in trying to keep Gregor the beetle happy and away from the family at thesame time. Mrs. Samsa reveals herself as the Id, showcasing the maternal love seeking pleasureof having a son to carry on her genetic identity, hoping and praying for him to get better. Mr.Samsa is the Ego, the rational part of the mind, taking over the family in Gregor¶s absence,making money and keeping calm after the transformation is revealed, knowing that life must goon. Once the pressure is increased, as what they fled from meets them again, each character  bends to their Id¶s idea: Mrs. Samsa with her fainting, Grete helping her mother and increasedfear of Gregor, and Mr. Samsa attacking the source of the reinstated pressure, Gregor. Once thatalready heightened pressure increases even more, the mind¶s tolerance level is surpassed, and thesystem collapses. The ³fight or flight´ response becomes just a fighting response, as the Samsa¶sattempts at escapes haven¶t worked and no other means of escape are seen. Like a corneredanimal, the mind will fight with all its might, regardless of whether it can change anything.When an organic force throws itself against an infinite, immovable force going the oppositedirection, the organism will lose. This is when Gregor dies. His Id gives up, and his Super-Egotendencies of his manhood flash through his head as the death of instinct is the death of theorganism, Gregor.

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