Exploring the Text

  1. When you are half-way through “A Report for an Academy,” close your book and write a post describing your responses to this short fiction so far. In particular, explain how you feel about the narrator. When you have finished the piece, continue recording your responses. Share them with one other students.
  2. The protagonist goes through a number of changes as he metaphorphoses from one state to another. Make a chart listing the narrator’s gains, after he became a human, on one side and his losses on the other. Evaluate the two existences. Explain why you feel he is or is not better off as a human.(Hint)
  3. The protagonist says at one point that he prefers metaphor for some things. What kinds of things might he have in mind? Select two of the metaphors he uses and see if you can draw some conclusions about the kinds of things that metaphor might be “better” for. Consider, too, whether or not you agree with the protagonist’s statement about metaphor. Explain your conclusions.
  4. Although the protagonist shows no desire to antagonize the members of the academy, he does not seem particularly anxious to please them either. His encounters with other humans seem to be equally, but not similarly, ambiguous. Consider how the protagonist-and perhaps Kafka himself-feels about the academy and about the human race in general. Do you agree with the protagonist’s feelings? Explore this topic with two or three other students. Remember to support your ideas with quotations from the text.

Consider any of these phrases in your discussions …
(page numbers from the J.A. Underwood translation in The Story Begins When The Story Ends)

  • “Speaking frankly, much as I prefer choosing metaphors for these things – speaking frankly: your own apehood. gentlemen, in so far as you have anything of that sort behind you, cannot be farther removed from you than mine is from me. But everyone who walks this earth has an itchy heal: from the little chimpanzee to the great Achilles.”(171)
  • “When it’s a question of the truth, every high-minded person drops the ultimate refinements.”(172)
  • “… but only to be in darkness I faced the crate…”(172)
  • “For the first time in my life, I had no way out.”(172)
  • “…the blissful baying of ignorance…”(172)
  • “the first occupations of my new existence”(172)
  • “I had no way out, yet I had to come up with one, because I could not go on living without it.”(172)
  • “… freedom is something that men all too often dupe themselves with.”(173)
  • “And as freedom is among the most sublime of feelings, so is the corresponding illusion among the most sublime.”(173)
  • “Oh mockery of the sanctity of Nature!”(173)
  • “… if the way out should be merely an illusion…”(173)
  • ” … he completed the theoretical side of my instruction…”(175)
  • “Was I not already too wearied by the theory? Yes, I was. Such was my fate.”(175)
  • “…in the battle against apehood we were both on the same side and that I had the harder task.”(175)
  • “I was not tempted to imitate men…”(176)
  • “I soon spotted the two possibilities open to me…”(176)
  • “the zoo is just another way out”(176)
  • “my first instructor … had before long to abandon my instruction and be admitted to a mental hospital”(176)
  • “Oh, one learns when one has too; one learns if one wants a way out; one learns relentlessly”(176)
  • “I acquired the average education of a European.”(176)
  • “It got me out of the cage and gave me this particular way out, the human way out.”(176)
  • “I disappeared in the undergrowth.”(177)
  • “I had no alternative, always assuming that freedom was not an option.”(177)
  • “…I neither complain nor am I content.”(177)
  • “She has that mad look of the confused trained animal in her eye; only I can see it, and cannot stand it.”(177)
  • “On the whole I have undoubtedly achieved what I set out to achieve.”(177)
  • “I am not interested in anyone’s opinion; I am interested only in disseminating knowledge.”(177)


You may work with one other student on this project. View the film The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa (NFB), based on Kafka’s novel The Metamorphosis. This is an innovative, award-winning film that uses sand on glass to create a Kafkaesque film of alienation and guilt. There is no narration.

Imagine you are the former ape.

Assuming his level of discourse and tone of voice, write a description of what you see and what you feel as you are watching this film.

See the film at least twice and discuss with your partner the best way to approach this activity.