Establishing Identity in Alien Environment: Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, Polanski’s The Tenant and Kishon’s Stories

  • Kalina Maleska Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje


Identity formation is a process that involves both individual characteristics and cultural constructs. Dependent on family upbringing, as well as on encounter with the social and national environment, identity-formation is inevitably a complex and often painful process. This essay will attempt to convey this complexity and painfulness of establishing one’s identity through the characters in Franz Kafka’s story “Metamorphosis”, Roman Polanski’s film The Tenant and several of Efraim Kishon’s stories, and to explore whether different approaches to alien environment may contribute to undermining the hostility faced. Even though in “Metamorphosis”, Gregor Samsa’s environment is his own family, the essay will explore how this secure environment becomes alien when it does not accept identity which is different from the one that it nurtures. The Tenant will be discussed from the aspect of the alien environment of the building in Paris in which the main character of Polish origin, Trelkovsky, moves, and in which he cannot establish his own identity. The film gives the opportunity for examining the decisive role that culture and national background may have on the development of identity in an unfamiliar environment. The thesis that this essay aims to explore is whether or not a different approach, such as that of Kishon, to an environment which is equally alien as those in “Metamorphosis” and The Tenant, could lead to a more successful and less painful development and affirmation of one’s identity.


[1] Behrens, Ulrich. An extract from a review on The Tenant quoted by Wikipedia’s entry on The Tenant.
[2] Canby, Vincent. “The Screen: Roman Polanski’s ‘The Tenant’ Arrives”. New York Times, 21 June, 1976.
[3] Kafka, Franz. “The Metamorposis”. Trans. Stanley Corngold. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Eds. Mack, Maynard, et al. Expanded ed. New York: Norton, 1997. 2479-2783.
[4] Mack, Maynard, et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Expanded ed. New York: Norton, 1997.
[5] Nicholson, Linda. Identity before Identity Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.
[6] Polanski, Roman (director). The Tenant. Released: 1976.
[7] Кишон, Ефраим. Није фер, Давиде. Прев. Саша Новак. Земун: Book, 1998
How to Cite
MALESKA, Kalina. Establishing Identity in Alien Environment: Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, Polanski’s The Tenant and Kishon’s Stories. Култура/Culture, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 14, p. 46-52, oct. 2016. ISSN 1857-7725. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 apr. 2024.
English Articles