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Comic Anxiety and Kafka's Black Comedy

From: Philosophy and Literature
Volume 35, Number 2, October 2011
pp. 282-302 | 10.1353/phl.2011.0024



In order to explain why The Metamorphosis of Kafka is a black comedy, I argue that all comedy is governed by an illogical logic that generates a catharsis of wish and fear: we want the protagonist to succeed, but fear he will fail. Our fear is a form of anxiety. Mistaken identity and role reversal, two of the most common devices used in comedy (and also in satire), are funny to the degree they are unrealistic. Kafka's story is a comic satire on family love fraught with extreme anxiety.