How to Interpret: A Deconstructionist Example - Deconstruction

How To Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies - Sykalo Eugen 2024

How to Interpret: A Deconstructionist Example

We will closely examine a literary work and use the fundamental ideas of deconstruction to reveal the layers of meaning hidden inside the story in order to demonstrate the deconstructionist approach in action. The mysterious tale "The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka is the selected example.

Text: Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis"

1. Recognizing Binary Oppositions: The Transformation of Gregor

In "The Metamorphosis," the transformation of Gregor Samsa into a gigantic insect serves as the core binary opposition. Human/animal is traditionally viewed as a stable binary, but deconstruction forces us to question this seeming stability.

Deconstructionist Inquiry: Instead of acknowledging the distinct distinction between humans and insects, deconstruction encourages us to investigate the hazy lines. What makes an animal an animal and what makes a human? The book challenges the binary's presumptive stability and makes readers reevaluate what identity really is.

2. Language and Logocentrism: Speaking Without Words

Kafka's novella also questions logocentrism, especially in light of the constraints on conventional communication that Gregor's bug shape places on it. Speech is valued above all other forms of expression in logocentrism, but Gregor's transformation upends this hierarchy.

Deconstructionist Analysis: Gregor's failure to express himself verbally in human language stimulates a deconstructionist investigation into non-verbal communication channels. In what ways does the story refute the logocentric notion that language is the only means of expression? What meaning is conveyed by nonverbal behaviors and reactions?

3. Dissimilarity and the Unsteady Denotation: The Symbolic Apple

A pivotal scene in the story features Gregor getting hurt by an apple that his father threw. The apple takes on a meaning that is difficult to pin down and creates opportunities for deconstructionist study.

Deconstructionist Inquiry: The apple that was thrown serves as a mark, a trace, left by an unidentified cause. Beyond its obvious significance, what does the apple represent? In what ways does its meaning change depending on where it appears in the text? Deconstruction pushes readers to accept the variety of readings and helps us to see the signifier's fragility.

4. Indecisiveness and the Conclusion: Unresolved Resolution

The conclusion of "The Metamorphosis" leaves readers indecisive because Gregor's passing doesn't offer a satisfying conclusion. The traditional assumption of closure in narrative structures is questioned by deconstruction.

Deconstructionist Analysis: What prevents the novella from having a definitive conclusion? How are conventional ideas of closure and finality disrupted by the ending's ambiguity? Deconstruction embraces the narrative's intrinsic undecidability by encouraging readers to reflect on the narrative's openness of interpretation and lack of set meanings.

5. Deconstructive Ethics: Empathy for the Other

By analyzing the novella's relationships—especially those between Gregor and his family—deconstruction invites moral consideration of how the "other" is treated.

Deconstructionist Inquiry: In what ways does the story undermine conventional familial ties? How do the characters respond to the moral ramifications of Gregor's change? Deconstruction asks readers to interact with the text in an ethical manner by challenging presumptions and recognizing the complexity of interpersonal interactions.

Examining and Thinking: A Deconstructionist Interpretation

"The Metamorphosis" becomes clear as a story that questions logocentric presumptions, upends binary oppositions, and questions fixed meanings when viewed through a deconstructionist lens. The example shows how deconstruction embraces ambiguity, creates room for many readings, and draws attention to the text's unstable meaning.

Important lessons learned:

Identity Fluidity: By challenging established classifications like "human" and "animal," Deconstruction helps readers understand how unstable and malleable identity is.

plurality of Interpretation: The novella's symbols, such as the apple, emphasize the play of differences and the plurality of meaning by resisting solitary readings.

Challenging Closure: The book invites readers to accept undecidability and the openness of interpretation by refusing a final resolution, so challenging conventional narrative closure.

Ethical Engagement: By urging readers to relate to people on an emotional level and consider the conventions of society, Deconstruction raises ethical questions about how the "other" is treated.