“I Am in Here”: A Comparative Reading of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis
Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), with Gregor Samsa’s transformation “into a gigantic insect”, forms an insightful comparative reading to the opening of Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), including Hal Incandenza’s seeming, unexplained catatonia. Wallace described Kafka’s fiction as conducting a “radical literalization of truths we tend to treat as metaphorical”. In comparing Kafka’s novella and Infinite Jest, the question ‘what has happened to Hal?’ thus means: what metaphor is literalized by Hal’s situation? In both texts, the metaphors represent selfhood and writing fiction; but, contrary to Gregor, Hal has taken up the task of self-becoming and symbolizes literary disclosure and communication – rendering Infinite Jest as a redemptive novel.
Keywords: Franz Kafka • David Foster Wallace • Self-becoming • Acknowledgment • Role of literature • Alienation • Communication • The Metamorphosis • Infinite Jest