“The Metamorphosis” and Euthanasia

On a recent visit home, I asked my daughter Grace to share with me some of her writings.  Grace is a prolific writer, but she can be very private about her work.  She has several drafts of works in various genres: historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction… and I’ve read snippets, but when I asked if she would share them, she replied, “They are not ready.”  My sense is that Grace is an even more ruthless editor than I am and, unlike me, is leery about giving birth to a piece of writing before its time.

But she did agree to share with me some writing she is doing for a course she’s working on at home.  The subject is “20th Century History”.  When she told me the course title my first thought was, “The 20th century isn’t history!  I lived through it.”  The course design is to read some of the best fiction and non-fiction books depicting each decade.  She then writes theme papers on certain books and summary papers on each decade.  Grace agreed that I could reproduce her work on my blog.  The following is one of her essays.

The Metamorphosis and Euthanasia

By Grace Roberts

1/9/13

Week 7

The Metamorphosis was one of the most interesting books I have read in a while.  Also, one of the most disturbing.  It reminded me a good deal of All Quiet on the Western Front – perhaps the similarities are due because both were written in German around the same time; and the content is disquieting.  Both do not hide unpleasantries. Both are superbly well-written.  Both deal with death.

Which brings me to the reason for this paper.  It was my assignment to tie The Metamorphosis with euthanasia.  While the story doesn’t directly deal with “mercy killings”, it brings up a side of death that is not nice.  What should happen when someone is unable to enjoy life anymore? When their sufferings have become too great?  What about if they are also a drain on society?  And they are dying anyway?  Should they be endured, or “put out of their misery”?  When is it mercy, when is it killing?  Is there a way to tell?

Franz Kafka did not seek to answer any questions, only ask them.  I myself don’t know the answers; it’s a topic that is beyond me.  But God has been pretty clear on some major things.  He created life.  It is sacred, not something to be taken lightly.  He is also love.  His way of loving is completely opposite of our preconceived notions.  We seem to think an object of affection must have value to be desirable.  God doesn’t think that way.  He calls the things that are not as if they are.  He gives value.  He tenderly takes care of things that, if we could see what He does, would be repulsed.  He endures with everlasting patience and love.  We need to keep that in mind when we talk about the sanctity of life.

franz kafka

Franz Kafka
(from INeedCoffee.com, some rights reserved)

6 thoughts on ““The Metamorphosis” and Euthanasia

  1. I would like to know Grace’s age. The writing is good when compared to above-average adult-written blog articles. I would also like to know what class and with what school such an assignment is given. Lesser assignments are typical of many college classes, what school do I now so admire?

    This issue does remind me of an article I should write in my blog. Long story short, my mother was being kept alive on life support and during a wakened lucid moment I was able to communicate her best-case lifestyle should she get “better.” I was almost absolutely certain that she wrote on a pad of paper that she wanted to die, and I told her as simply and clearly as I could that it is a big decision and if she still feels that way tomorrow I would act on it. I stood to inherit what is to me a lot of money but I preferred to keep mom around. I demanded and got a consult with the head doctor on her case. I told him of my mother’s apparent decision and I asked if he would please try to verify without directly prompting her about the issue.

    The next day the main doc called me in for a meeting. They had eased up on mom’s pain medication so she could be more lucid. While there was a respirator down her throat all the nurses and doctors were there in the room as my mother repeatedly wrote, “I want to die.”

    I had medical Power of Attorney, mom communicated clearly, and I made sure she was moved as quickly as possible to hospice-level care. Of the many things I am grateful to my mother for, lifting this burden from my shoulders was the greatest one. Two days later as she faded into her final sleep my wife and I held her hands as I repeated to her all the wonderful things she did for me and everyone else she knew and how much I loved her. One day I hope to be strong enough to write about these things in detail. It is difficult doing this now.

    • Wow. Much to which to respond.

      First, Grace is now 18. She has been home schooled since she was 6 and finished the required high school course work at 16. While she prayerfully discerns whether to attend community college or mission school, she asked us to purchase this home school curriculum that is designed to be a college-level course (and you are right, it would be challenging for most college students). I will find out the name of the curriculum, because I would like to recommend it highly.

      As for the story about your mother, all I can say is I am deeply touched that Grace’s essay moved you to write about it here. It sounds like she had a peaceful parting and you were a key part of that, particularly in telling her “the wonderful things” she did for you. I think it would make a very good post for you to write when the time is right.

      • Another thing that people don’t seem to know much about, perhaps because they don’t care, is that there are many college classes that one can “monitor” through iTunes U. I also hear that all of MIT’s classes can be taken/viewed for free online. That is another topic I must write about as many have access to a college education although the price for the piece of paper might remain out of their reach.

      • I suspect an increasing number of students will take advantage of free or low-cost educational opportunities made possible through technology and that traditional high-investment on-campus learning will decline. For some studies, however, there is just nothing like face-to-face engaged learning in a real (not virtual) classroom. It’s like with books, there will always be some demand (but they may become more the exception than the rule).

  2. Grace writes especially well, Tony, particularly given her young age. You must be very proud of her. I read Metamorphosis as a young man but would not then have been able to articulate my thoughts as clearly as Grace. Her “sanctity of life” conclusion is compelling!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful words. You are right that I am very proud. She is a bright and articulate young woman who has a very deep and profound faith. I will be sure to convey your comment to her.

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