Sometimes bad shit happens for no reason at all. That’s just how the proverbial cookie crumbles.
This is the primary theme of Franz Kafka’s famous short story “The Metamorphosis,” in which the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one day and discovers that he’s become a giant cockroach. On top of being turned into the most disgusting bug on the face of the planet, he loses his shitty job, is disowned by his family, and dies a slow, miserable death.
Though this sounds like the most depressing narrative ever, it’s actually quite entertaining to witness Gregor’s complete loss of humanity. In fact, the tale is so beloved by bookworms that a lot of them have gotten tattoos of the author and his spineless anti-hero.
One of the reasons that Kafka’s writing is widely celebrated is because it presents the harshness of modern existence through surreal tropes. This aspect of his work has been labeled as Kafkaesque, a term which connotes several things: that life is inexplicably cruel sometimes, strange occurrences produce new forms of expression, and the world is generally more nightmarish than dreamlike. In short, through presenting reality in twisted ways, he authentically captures its relentless, yet beautiful, brutality.
The unfortunate events that befall Gregor throughout “The Metamorphosis” speak strongly to underprivileged members of society. Though it’s safe to say that none of us have woken up as insects, at one point or another, all of us have experienced the anxieties that Kafka’s character faces.
Who hasn’t called in sick to work and ran the risk of being fired or irredeemably disappointed their parents on accident? It’s happened to us all, and this is what makes becoming an invertebrate so relatable.
Chances are you’ll roll out of bed tomorrow and say, “God, just squash me like a bug already,” but you’ll also likely continue to struggle through the day anyway, which is exactly why you may as well get a Kafkaesque tattoo like all these other realists.
To see more darkly themed tattoos — maybe even a few inspired by great works of literature — make sure to browse these artists’ Instagrams. If you’re an avid reader of Kafka’s work, get a portrait of him or Gregor, the renowned sentient cockroach (aside from the ones in Joe’s Apartment and Men in Black), tattooed on your body. There’s no better way to express the nihilism that most of us can’t help but revel in every once in awhile.