Identities in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis (1915) and In the Penal Colony (1919)


  • Solenne Lestienne Independent Researcher


Identities, individual, authority, tyranny, metatextuality, absurdity


My intention is to understand the logic of power and subsequently, of identical questions, in Kafka's Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony. Ranging from the splitting up of the self to the corporeal violence it undergoes, the logic of identity brings about the idea of fracture. Rather interestingly, Kafka's writing couples organic texture and distanced tone to represent the ego's fissures. Being torn asunder and particularly concerned with paradoxes, he himself was caught between profound despair and a strong will to survive. What is more, his sense of persistent self-devaluation encompasses complex consciousness, which determines identical hybridism and palimpsestic layers of self-definition. In his works, relationships are hierarchical and often vertical. The main point actually resides in the disproportionate conflict between undefined tyrannical authorities and singular beings whose identical landmarks are literally crushed down. In this way, in his short texts, Kafka puts forward his mistrust in mankind and expounds a form of dark pessimism. The notion of irresolution and of impeached identity eventually comes up, foregrounding the abolition of hopes and of humanist illusions. Kafka's stylistic devices consisting in favouring details and metonymies may be assimilated to a magnifying lens through which absurdity is painfully enlightened and through which the individual is shown as completely unarmed.




How to Cite

Lestienne, S. (2020). Identities in Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) and In the Penal Colony (1919). International Review of Literary Studies, 2(1), 32-41. Retrieved from