(Although most cultures cannot be generalized with certain behaviours, however, certain
Japanese traditions and values are common to all their people and is taught to them from
a very early age. The practice of having the son of a family to look after his parents, as
mentioned later, is common to both Japanese and Chinese cultures.)
In our studies of European literature, we can see that patriarchy, that is, the
supremacy of the father in a family and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in
the male line, plays a major part in family life. However, the institution of patriarchy is
not just limited to European cultures. In this essay, we will examine the instances of
patriarchy in "The Metamorphosis" and compare it to instances in Japan.
In the beginning of "The Metamorphosis," we can tell from the way Gregor's
family is organized that Gregor is the 'father figure,' in that he is the primary
breadwinner and the one who makes most of the decisions for his family. On page 1781,
we can see Gregor thinking that me would "take charge of the family's affairs again,"
hence showing that before he turned into a bug, he was the dominant person in the family.
He is the only person in the family who actually goes out to
earn money. His father has already retired, while his mother and sister, following the
standards of that time, do not go out and work. Gregor is the only one who goes out
as a traveling salesman, and is responsible for earning money for the whole family.
His father stays at home and only "lies wearily buried in bed"(1778) while Gregor
goes out on business trips. From this, we can see that Gregor has taken over his father's
responsibilities as head of the household. He is earning money and supporting the family
while his father has retired and only stays at home, doing nothing. This conforms
with the practice of patriarchy in that the son, Gregor in this case, inherits the position
and responsibilitles as head of this household from his father.
In Japan, the son of a family is expected to take over the responsibilities of
taking care of his family when his father retires, similar to how
Gregor takes over in his family. The son is also expected to look after his parents
after they grow old and retire, similar to how Gregor looks after his retired father and
mother. If he does not look after his parents, he is thought of as being 'unfilial' and
seen as a bad person. In contrast, daughters are expected to go out and find a good
husband and get married, similar to Grete at the end of "The Metamorphosis."
Another aspect of patriarchy is the supremacy of the father in the family, that
is, the 'father figure' is the most dominant person in the family. In "The Metamorphosis," we
see this in Gregor when he mentions casually that he had "declared inedible"(1769) a piece
of cheese that Grete brought in for him. Although this seems to be a minor point, but the
fact that special mention is given to this fact emphisizes Gregor's dominance in his
family, espically since there is no other reason for mentioning this. That he had "declared"
the cheese inedible makes it seem like there is no question of his declaration, no matter
what the rest of his family thinks.
Another example of the dominance of the father is in part 3 of "The
Metamorphosis" where we can see Grete begging her father to get rid of Gregor. Although
she wants to get rid of him, she still has to convince and beg her father to make the
decision. Even though Grete is the one who initiates the notion of getting rid of Gregor,
she still has to get her father's approval, hence showing that the father is the one who
is supreme and makes decisions in this household.
Comparing the role of the father in these texts to that in an Japanese society, we
find similarities even to the modern Japanese family. For example, in an average
Japanese family, it is expected for the father to go out and earn money for the
household and become a "salariman" while the mother stays at home and looks after
their children. Also, generally, whatever the father decides usually becomes law, just
like how Gregor's father's decision about Gregor and Orgon's decision for his
daughter to marry Tartuffe are final.
Patriarchy is a major part of Western culture, and can be seen in "The
Metamorphosis." However, it is also a major part of Japanese culture as
well, and the way that patriarchy is practiced is similar to what is illustrated in the
texts we have read.