Edited by Ananya Khandelwal
Waking up disoriented to the crumbling pressure of work, in a body you’re suddenly unfamiliar with, and not being able to do a thing about it as everyone around you frets – could describe life in quarantine as much as it does the novella. It’s almost as if Kafka knew the Ashokan way out of hearing unprecedented times for the umpteenth is a crash course in Philosophy 101 mixed with the perception of socially constructed ideals and some pretentiousness to justify the literary comparison.
Gregor’s Metamorphosis is as sudden as the mail declaring campus will be shut until further notice and as frustrating as not knowing the state of belongings that were never a part of the packing-for-a-week plan. His gradual decline from hoping to return to his old self to accept things may not change is equivalent to the entire student body dreading the upcoming online classes -Ashoka Minecraft became a collective coping mechanism and Zoom saw more tears than the line at lunch. Despite being locked-in for months, here are 5 times we have metamorphosed like Gregor!
1. When Sleeping-in and Doing Nothing was the Right Answer
Gregor woke up to find himself transformed into an insect and thought the next best thing to do was to sleep a little longer to ignore the problem; he didn’t quite know what to do to the point of not wanting to do anything. His initial reaction rivaled the entire spring semester experience where sleeping through online classes became easier than sleeping in Reddy’s.
2. The Beginning of an Identity Crisis
If Gregor’s inability to communicate with his family members made him question his existence, it’s safe to say the lack of campus life and inability to maintain a routine has struck a chord amongst everyone. Finding purpose and knowing who you are beyond the space you exist was confusing as it is but facing the fact that identity may itself be a social construct was beyond unsettling. At this point, Buzzfeed quizzes that help you decide your major are the only acceptable form of identification.
3. When the Isolation Hit
Gregor began to experience a sense of alienation and disconnect from reality; he was literally a parasite in his own home and had started to feel disposable. Over time, furniture from the room he was kept in was removed and it was converted into a storage facility-essentially, cutting his last association with his identity. Being in quarantine created a certain kind of distance that was a mix of Lauv’s Modern Loneliness and flawed human connection that stemmed from the dissatisfaction experienced in relationships.
4. The Limits of Empathy
In the beginning, Gregor’s sister was compassionate towards him. She was concerned about his eating habits, gradually became less scared of him, and slowly began to understand the signs he left. However, the longer his family struggled to pay their debt while he remained an insect, the more distant his sister grew. Eventually, she stopped noticing whether he was eating and was almost relieved after he starved to death. It’s almost as if the more the situation gets normalised, it is less likely for people to be empathetic; the coming semester may prove to be more challenging but will be met with greater expectations and lesser room to fail.
5. Coping With the Absurdity of Reality
In the Metamorphosis, the emphasis is laid on handling Gregor’s transformation rather than questioning it in the first place. Throughout the novella, Gregor’s thoughts focus on the family debt or his sister’s education amongst other things but never attempted to understand how Gregor’s condition came to be. In a way, understanding how things are has never been a priority. Instead, moving forward and building a virtual space has reduced the shock of reality -enough to power through course registration.
The struggle of online classes, maintaining relationships, and the uncertainty of it all is perplexing. There may be no sure shot way of acing this but there is also no one who decides how to deal with a pandemic and so, the only question that remains is: how Kafkaesque is this quarantine?