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Metamorphosis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ArielleCF
Words 749
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The setting of a story often helps a reader to feel as if he were actually a part of the story. Franz Kafka and Herman Melville are two authors who chose specific settings for their stories. The settings they chose help to place their characters into perspective and to understand the problems they face. Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Herman Melville’s Billy Budd take place at different points in time and in different settings; Metamorphosis in an apartment in the early 1900’s, and Billy Budd on a ship in the late 18th Century. These settings help to identify the mood of each story. Metamorphosis takes place in the early 1900’s in the apartment of Gregor Samsa. Kafka does not provide a geographical setting for Metamorphosis, however, the significance of the story taking place on land is the ability of the characters to escape at their own will. Metamorphosis begins with Gregor unable to get out of his bed for work, later succumbing to the fact that he has morphed into an insect. Gregor’s extreme tardiness for work causes upheaval and chaos in the Samsa home; The father is screaming, Gregor’s boss comes to the house to find his employee, Gregor’s mother and sister are crying because they are scared, and there are guests in the home. The setting of the entire Samsa family being confined into a small apartment makes the the turmoil that arises a much larger issue than it really is. At a certain point, the Samsa family, led by their father, decides to isolate Gregor into the living room. This isolation is the start to planning a death for Gregor in order to restore the family dynamic in the Samsa home. Billy Budd takes place on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea in 1797 during the Napoleonic wars. The fighting between France and England at the time helped frame the setting of the story. The names of the boats Melville chose, “Rights of Man” and “Bellipotent”, help to incorporate history into the story. This is because they each have strong meaning behind them, “Rights of Man” being a group of people in France who sought to fight for the rights of society, and “Bellipotenet” meaning war. There is no place for Billy Budd to escape the fighting and negativity that takes place on the boat. The boat setting of Billy Budd is a very claustrophobic setting. A boat is a very confined space and there is no shore to turn to. Melville is a much more descriptive writer than Kafka. He begins Billy Budd with a more graphic setting than Kafka does with Metamorphosis. The reader is therefore better able to dive into the story knowing more about its setting, about when and where it is taking place. Both Gregor and Billy Budd stand out in their surroundings; Billy Budd being a white person surrounded by African Americans, and Gregor being an insect surrounded by human beings. The setting of each story provides a backdrop for the feelings of inferiority that both Gregor and Billy Budd have. In Metamorphosis, Gregor’s inability to communicate with his father is what causes violence in the apartment. He feels that he is forever inferior to his father and senses continuous defeat. This feeling is what ultimately causes Gregor’s father to decide have his son die. Gregor’s inferiority to his father can be compared to Claggart’s jealousy of Billy Budd’s innocence and positive attitude. Understanding the time frame and factual background of Billy Budd helps the reader to better comprehend the story and Billy Budd as a character. Claggart’s jealousy is taken so far as to accuse Billy Budd of mutiny, and ultimately die for an act of innocence, killing Claggart to protect his own life. Both Gregor and Billy Budd are unable to escape their problems; Gregor is an insect and Billy Budd is stuck on a boat to face his own death. This shows that being confined to a space and being unable to communicate with the outside for help can cause major problems. In the end, both Gregor and Billy Budd are killed to solve the problem of chaos that took place in each setting. The setting of a story helps a reader to understand the characters in the story. Franz Kafka and Herman Melville provide different setting for their stories, Metamorphosis and Billy Bud, respectively. Although each setting is different, it is able to provide a mood for the reader as they read the story for themselves.

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