Yi-Fu Tuan establishes his rationalization towards the “Experiential Perspective” by loosely interpreting the ever intangible notion of human experience. “Experience is a cover-all term for the various modes through which a person knows and constructs a reality (Tuan, 8).” Human beings are comprised of certain tendencies, namely the propensity to adjust to certain situations by means of physicality. Our physical nature contributes to the way we, as individuals, view and “construct” our own realities. It also refines our understanding of Tuan’s idea of “Space” and “Place.”
Literal interpretations coincide with physical contact, or face to face interaction. When alluding to “experiences,” Tuan asks, “What sensory organs and experiences enable a human being to have their strong feeling for space and for spatial qualities? Answer: kinesthesia, sight, and touch (Tuan, 12).” “Sight” and “touch” are two descriptive expressions that undoubtedly correlate with the human body. In Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” the main character, salesman Gregor Samsa, becomes increasingly pained by his families lack of physical affection, and physical care towards him.
In Kafka’s story, Gregor wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a repellent insect. He is troubled by his odd transformation, not because of his health or well-being, but rather due to a financial standpoint. He knows he is unable to go to work, and as the primary source of income for the Samsa family, he feels as if he has let his family down. Once his family found out about his sudden shift in physical appearance, they gradually discard him as a member of their family as well as their household. It was clearly evident that Gregor was only appreciated for his wealth, or means of supporting his family. Other than for his responsibilities to his house, he seemingly had no other reason for existence.
When attempting to associate Gregor’s tale with Tuan’s book on “space” and “place,” one can immediately draw a parallel between the literal, as well as figurative, notion of space in regards to Gregor and his family. As he progressively began to lose the ability to help his family, his Mother, Father, and in some instances his sister, started to shift steadily further away from him. They left him with a plethora of “space,” of course this inordinate amount of figurative as well as literal space, was not how Gregor envisioned he would live the remainder of his dreary life.
Tuan points out in his chapter “Spaciousness and Crowding,” “Solitude is a condition for acquiring a sense of immensity. Alone one’s thoughts wander freely over space. In the presence of others they are pulled back by an awareness of other personalities who project their own world onto the same area (Tuan, 59).” In relation to “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor’s family can be viewed as “other personalities who project their own world onto the same area (Tuan, 59).” They seemed to desire too much from Gregor, ostensibly leading him to his demise.
In one of the book’s opening scenes, we find Gregor in his room, attempting to get ready for work. His family relied on him so, that they became outwardly frustrated with Gregor’s slight tardiness (missing the early train), ultimately dismissing the possibility that he may be sick and unable to work that morning.
“…and already at one of the side doors his father was knocking, softly, yet with a fist. “Gregor, Gregor,” he called, “what’s the matter?” Before long he called once more in a deeper voice, “Gregor? Gregor” From the other side door came the sound of his sister’s voice, gentle and plaintive. “Gregor, aren’t you feeling well? Is there anything I can get you?”(Kafka, 304)
Gregor is instantly bombarded by his superficially deprived family the moment he is found to make the slightest blunder. His personal “space” appeared to be attacked at that specific point in the story. He felt as if his family was surrounding him, depriving him of his “space.” Although, Gregor was locked inside of his bedroom, he could not escape with fear of showing his revolting physical evolution to his family. Tuan’s opinions regarding spaciousness and crowding are clearly witnessed in this scenario. Gregor is crowded by several personalities (his father, mother, and sister), but seems to be placed in a certain state of solitude as well.
The scene following the one previously discussed, has Gregor’s boss intruding, rather aggravating, his “space.” Gregor is quite perturbed by the unannounced appearance of his Office Manage in the Samsa household. He exclaims, “Wouldn’t it have been enough to send an office boy to ask- that is, if such prying were necessary at all (Kafka, 305)?” The term “prying” almost always implies a certain negative connotation. To “pry” means: to make an impertinent or an uninvited inquiry. In a certain sense, “prying” refers to the unwarranted invasion of “personal space.” Gregor did not wish for his Office Manager to come into his home and demand his where-a-bout’s first hand. He viewed this needless act by his manager as an invasion of space and property. Tuan argues the case that, when an uninvited visiting entity welcomes himself into your “space” (which is surrounded by a specific “place”), one can’t help but feel discomforted and self-conscious.
As the plot commences, Gregor’s family begins to forget entirely about his ultimate existence, as well as their reality alike. The Samsa family discovers a way to survive without Gregor’s income. After this point in the story, Gregor is thought of as an irrelevant entity, rather a burden to the household. All but his sister continue to visit him in his room, leaving Gregor in a state of solitude, with all the “space” he will ever need, but not what he desires.
Throughout “The Metamorphosis,” several troubling events had transpired, especially to the main character Gregor Samsa. The plot appeared to follow the ultimate downfall of Gregor as he slowly faded away through space and time. He could no longer reflect on past experiences, nor could he escape the daunting state of solitude and spatial seclusion.
Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and the writings of Tuan seem to effectively intertwine with one and other. Tuan’s notion’s regarding “spaciousness and crowding” regrettably affected Gregor as an individual as well as his actions in the stories narrative, leaving him helpless, blindly scuffling through this vastly profound world.