The Metamorphosis and a Doll’s House
Circumstance is a powerful thing, it causes evolution in characters far beyond what they would normally experience. In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Kafka develops the attitude towards this situation through the use of his protagonist Gregor. In the character Gregor we see that an individual will cling to their ideals and fail to adapt to circumstance. Inversely we see Henrik Ibsen in A Doll’s House that Nora, normally shy, possessing many doll-like qualities can adapt to her situation and ultimately come out on top.
Gregor, in The Metamorphosis goes through a transformation. He has changed into a giant insect, thus beginning a new physical life. But Gregor clings to his ideals, his strongly held beliefs of family that root themselves from his own insecurity. This causes Gregor much grief as the physical body starts to wear its impression onto his mind. Although it didn’t take long for Gregor to adapt in the physical sense, he never really adopts the true reality of the situation. He held onto his illusion of humanity because he clung to his idealism. This lack of mental adaptation caused Gregor’s ultimate downfall, but as he saw it, it was a noble sacrifice. So for Gregor not to adapt to this situation with a fundamental change in ideology was a fatal flaw in Gregor’s personality. Sure enough, we are all Gregors’ in a sense, we all believe in something, be it a religion, or the perpetual love of our parents. In this short story Kafka mirrors the effect of faith and morals into Gregor, suggesting that the static nature of these ideals will, in the right context lead to a person’s ultimate demise.
Nora, the doll-like mother from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House shows the human capacity for adaptation, and the effect these changes have on various aspects of an individual. In the beginning of the play, Nora was a very doll-like character, more plastic than human. Nora showed very little sign of having an original thought of her own, and dumbly fondled her way along life to the condescending comments of her arrogant husband, Helmer. When confronted with the possibility of Helmer’s death due to his own stubborn nature, she had taken a leap of faith into a loan of money, one that she would seemingly never pay back. She initially displayed this money as an act of goodwill on her father’s behalf, mainly to suppress undue commentary from Helmer. Through this act we start to see the first hints of dynamic change in Nora. Events in the story lead to Nora’s eventual independence quite rapidly upon the introduction of Kristine, and the revelation of the truth surrounding her father’s death and the loan. Nora’s unsympathetic nature towards her father’s death suggests a deeper material to her seemingly plastic shell. As the story progresses, we find many more forward changes in the personality of Nora. Her longing to say …”Bloody Hell”… is among the most prominent signs of mental change in her character. Her complete transformation is realized at the end of the play when she finally leaves her husband. This is a far cry from the Nora first introduced. Her dynamic change as a protagonist is a change of values, a revelation in the way she handles situations. She is now blunt and independent, no longer searching for her husbands mocking approval. Nora is the embodiment of change in our world, she represents a change of ideology from the old ways, to the new ways. In A Doll’s House Ibsen connects Nora with the tides of change in humanity, showing that a change in ideology can result in the casting off of our dependence on the Helmers’, who represent the status quo.
When putting this into perspective you realize that this world is made up of two different types of people. Some of us are Noras’ and some of us are Gregors’. Through these short stories we see the bipolar nature of human adaptation in unfamiliar circumstance. Nora’s character is the one of a new ideology, the voice of change and ultimate adaptation and triumph. Gregor is one of the clinger; one of those who will stick to a static ideology that is failing to keep up in a dynamic world. Ibsen and Kafka saw in humanity the plain fact that those whom adapt, those who do not react, but act are those who will inherit the world.