‘The Metamorphosis’ by Joyce Carol Oates

The Metamorphosis by Joyce Carol Oates, 1971

The magic trick:

Bringing Kafka to a car dealership

Our man, Matthew, doesn’t wake up as a cockroach. But it’s clear his day isn’t going to end well, that’s for sure. Oates recasts “The Metamorphosis” at a car dealership, where the mundane is so mundane it grows dangerous.

I especially liked how she shows the way Matthew’s plight is affecting the family. We get reports from the family interspersed through the story. We see the mother crying, the children confused. It personalizes the social criticism.

And that’s quite a trick on Oates’s part.

The selection:

Having recently celebrated his thirty-fourth birthday, he assesses his present position. He finds that he is satisfied, proud of his accomplishments. Lesser men would have created excuses. Weaker individuals would have hidden in their parents’ basements. He likes to think of himself as methodical. Scrupulous.

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