The Usefulness of High School English Lit, in Everyday Adult Life

Author’s Note of Warning: This is not really an exciting story. In fact, the first sentence is “Last night I ate an apple.”

Last night I ate an apple. A fairly benign, common activity that I engage in almost daily. And a little piece of the skin of the apple got stuck between me teeth. Assured that it would simply dislodge on its own or after I brushed my teeth, I ignored the tiny chunk. After brushing my teeth I noticed it was still firmly lodged between two teeth, just below my gum line. Annoyed, but not really bothered, I went to bed.

All night I would run my tongue across the back of my teeth and feel just the slightest bit of apple peel poking out, taunting my with its refusal to vacate. I started to wonder what might happen to me if I left a piece of apple peel unattended between my bicuspids. And that’s when I was jettisoned back 7 years to World Literature in high school when we read the story The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

In case you haven’t read the story, here’s the plot in a nutshell: Traveling salesman Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find himself no longer man, but rather a large beetle-like bug. As the sole bread winner for his parents and sister, he is unable to keep his job as a traveling salesman.* His family cares for him for a while, but eventually must start working. They also decide to allow lodgers to rent space to stay in their home, leaving Gregor alone in his room for all of his time. At some point, and I can’t remember the exact circumstances around it, Gregor’s father becomes angry with him or afraid of him and starts throwing apples to scare Gregor back into his room. One of those apples becomes lodged between the plates of exoskeleton on Gregor’s back. The apple eventually leads to an infection that contributes to Gregor’s death.

Surely, I have placed the dots and you can connect them yourself. And you can see why I might be slightly panicked about the apple peel that has not succumb to vigorous brushing, drinking copious hot and cold fluids, floss, or a toothpick. Gregor was killed by a lodged apple. Though not a beetle, I can only imagine that my demise is coming in much the same manner in a time frame much shorter than I had originally planned.

I never thought it would be death by apple.

*I can’t even buy encyclopedias from the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness church members. I certainly would be unlikely to buy much from a beetle.


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