In the book, Metamorphosis, Frank Kafka tells the story of a dysfunctional family that becomes even more dysfunctional when their son, Gregor, transforms into a cockroach. Before and after his transformation, Gregor has a variety of identity and self-esteem issues. Through his transformation, many of these issues are maximized. He begins to not know who he is anymore, and he is disgusted by the fact that he has turned into a hideous creature, both figuratively and literally. This is demonstrated when he has woken up after turning into a cockroach with an itch. After he tries to scratch his itch, he notices one of his many insect legs and is revolted by the truth. The immensity of his disgust is portrayed in his reaction to his transformation into a bug. He does not react how most people would if they woke up one morning to find that they have been turned into what most would consider the world’s most repulsive insect. Instead of waking up in a panic, he simply reflects on his life as a human and how monotonous it was. In this reflection, it becomes clear that his family is codependent on him. Codependency is a major concern, and it should be addressed.
The story initially involves Gregor’s physical appearance and his conscious awareness that he has become an insect. “When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed” (505). Quite in denial, he does not appear to be very bothered by his transformation, and sees it as any other disturbance to his sleep, “what if I went back to sleep for a while, and forgot about all this nonsense?” (505). As the story progresses, Gregor seems focused on ordinary concerns like missing the early morning train, losing his meaningless and unfulfilling job as a traveling salesman, or his family’s unstable financial situation. His life is completely consumed with work and his family’s needs. Undergoing more physical changes, Gregor’s normal human voice turns into that of a bug, which makes it difficult for him to communicate with his family or his manager, who says, “that was the voice of an animal” (511). His words were no longer comprehensible. Once he was able to open his bedroom door, revealing himself as an insect to the others did not ensue ideally. Gregor’s mother, father, sister, and manager all stood shocked, and ran away in horror at the sight. Ironically, one of the first things that Gregor sees outside the bedroom is a photograph of himself from his period in the army as a lieutenant, “his hand on his sabre, smiling confidently, the posture and uniform
In The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka tells the story of a young man named Gregor who observes the radical changes in his life after transforming into an insect. Gregor’s life was centered on his job as a traveling salesperson and his family. One morning Gregor woke up transformed into an insect. Afraid of the transformation Gregor stays in his room and ignores calls from his family. When Gregor realized that his new body did not allow him to have a normal life, he tried to adapt. After his metamorphosis, Gregor is abandoned by his family and only maintains a small relationship with his sister Grete, who is in charge of serving and provide him with food, but always leaving some distance because of his ugly appearance.
The treatment of Gregor in this story rapidly declines after his metamorphosis and it is daunting to compare Gregor’s fictional life to Kafka’s real life. The use of indirect characterization throughout this story attempts to bridge the gap between fiction and reality. In this quote, “people who already have to work as hard as we do can’t put up with this constant torture at home, too”(Kafka 1187), Grete is speaking to her parents about the “torture” of having Gregor live in the house with them. Although these negative words being hurled at Gregor are hurtful towards him and his emotional state, it’s captivating to see how much of the story can be compared to Kafka’s life. Reflecting upon the story on a deeper level, with the comparison of Kafka to Gregor in mind, forces you to broaden your mind set. Not only does it do that, but it makes the story more compelling to read and helps the reader stay more
Grete undergoes a change in perspective to such a degree that by the end of the novella it is she who declares, “we must get rid of it” (84). This change in perspective shows how Kafka believes that members of society often stop sympathizing with the isolated group when it becomes inconvenient for them to continue doing so. Gregor’s mother reacts in an initial manner somewhere between the father and sister since when first seeing him she “went two steps toward Gregor and collapsed right in the middle of her skirts” (23). These conflicting desires continue through the novella, such as when Mr. Samsa tries to kill Gregor, “she begged him to spare Gregor’s life” (65) but at the same time she is repulsed by him. This illustrates how she wants to help him and tries to think of him the same way she did before his transformation, yet is unable to. This resembles the idealists in society who theoretically support the alienated person but often succumb to social pressures when they are forced to face the problem. These three reactions to Gregor’s transformation as a result of the initiation of his isolation by the manager demonstrate the spectrum of reactions. From the immediate acceptance of the hierarchy represented by Mr. Samsa, to the true compassion of Grete and the idealism of Mrs. Samsa, Kafka shows how a wide variety of reactions is expected from society, and how people often change their opinions.
Many views of existentialism are exposed in Kafka's Metamorphosis. One of these main views is alienation or estrangement which is demonstrated by Gregor's relationship with his family, his social life, and the way he lives his life after the metamorphosis. Namely, it suggests that man is reduced to an insect by the modern world and his family; human nature is completely self absorbed. Kafka reflects a belief that the more generous and selfless one is, the worse one is treated. This view is in direct conflict with the way things should be; man, specifically Gregor should be treated in accordance to his actions. Gregor should be greatly beloved by his family regardless of his state. This idea is displayed in three separate themes. First,
“The Metamorphosis” is a surreal story by Franz Kafka surrounding the transformation and betrayal of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one day, reborn into a large insect. Along with the bizarre and nightmarish appearance of his new hard back, brown segmented belly, and many legs, Gregor only desire is to live a normal life, unfortunately, this is impossible because he struggles to even get out of bed. Gregor transformation into an insect is a vivid metaphor for the alienation of humans from around the world. After losing human form, Gregor is automatically deprived of the right to be a part of society. Franz Kafka could relate to Gregor because he too was mistreated/neglected by his father and worked a job that he was unhappy doing. Franz and Gregor both were providers for their families. Alienation, isolation, and loneliness were not hard to recognize during the Modernity and Modernism time period.
Through Gregor, Kafka demonstrates the dehumanization of individuals, Gregor works at a job that consumes his thoughts and passions. He illustrates how humans toil ceaselessly and give themselves up to boring routines that don’t bring any meaning to the individual’s life. Gregor flashback’s to a time before his metamorphosis, when he worked with a “special intensity” (Kafka 43) in order to provide for the family, all the while ignoring his own needs. Kafka knows the affect that doing something that one does not enjoy can have on every aspect of that person’s life. He was forced to work at jobs that he did not want to, his dissatisfaction with the direction his life was headed caused him to have suicidal thoughts (Franz Kafka-Biography). Kafka knows the dangers of not living to bring meaning into one’s life and uses Gregor to illustrate this to the audience. Without meaning in life there is no reason to live because life alone is meaningless.
Gregor’s role in his family characterizes him as an altruistic individual whose nature made him ignorant to his family’s manipulation. Gregor endures most of his hardships without complaint and puts the needs of his family firmly above his own. Upon realizing his transformation at the beginning of the novella, his first thoughts were not of alarm but of great concern about being late to work because it is his only means of taking care of his family (Kafka 6). After his father’s business failed, Gregor “work[ed] with special ardor” (27) doing laborious work as a traveling salesman, not only to “pay off [his] parents’ debt”(4), but to also spend what little money he has to give Grete the opportunity to perform violin professionally (26). With all these responsibilities, it’s inevitable for Gregor to be under great stress, which can infer that Gregor’s transformation is a result of his willful desire to escape the pressures his overburdened life. Gregor struggled between remaining a steadfast provider or following his desire for independence, however, his metamorphosis freed him from a job he detests. Now that it is impossible for Gregor to work, Mr.Samsa reveals that “he possessed more money than Gregor knew about” (#). This is a significant event where Kafka uses the motif of betrayal to emphasize the corruption in familial infrastructure represented through Gregor’s sacrifice and interaction with his family, as well as to socially comment about how people in society use
On the surface, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka is an evocative story of a man transformed into a “monstrous vermin”. It seems to focus on the dark transformation of the story’s protagonist, Gregor, but there is an equal and opposing transformation that happens within Gregor’s family. Although Gregor has physically changed at the beginning of the story, he remains relatively unchanged as the novella progresses. The family, on the other hand, is forced to drastically change how they support themselves. Although the change was unexpected, Gregor’s transformation into a vermin sets into motion a change in the Samsa family that leaves them better off in almost every facet of their lives. Thus, Kafka’s story is not one of descent into darkness, but one of a family’s ascent towards self-actualization. The metamorphosis the title speaks of does not take place in Gregor, but rather in the Samsa Family; consequently, Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is not a tale of darkness, disconnection and despair, but rather a story of hope, new beginnings and perseverance.
Franz Kafka’s twentieth-century classic, The Metamorphosis, shows the changes of the Samsa family after their son, Gregor, turns into a vile insect. Even though Gregor has turned into the most disgusting of creatures, this “metamorphosis” is ironic compared to the transformation that his family endures. While Gregor still sustains his humanity, the lack of any compassion and mercy from his family, is what makes them the disgusting creatures rather than Gregor. The changes of Gregor’s father, mother, and sister prove that the theme of metamorphosis is not exclusively present within Gregor.
Additionally, Kafka’s relationships with his family members further demonstrate the devaluation and isolation present in his life. Concerning the novella, Straus writes, “the narration focuses on how Gregor invalidates his family, how his family invalidates and destroys Gregor.” (Nina Pelikan Straus) The story itself focuses on Gregor’s exile from his family by his family. Such exile reflects the invalidation of Kafka in his own and the destruction Kafka felt from his own family. Furthermore, Gregor’s father states that “if he could understand us, then maybe we could come to an agreement with him.” (Metamorphosis) Kafka’s own father was unable to come to terms with him and his experience is paralleled by Gregor and his
Turning the character into a giant, monstrous insect helps the author demonstrate the situation in which a person becomes absolutely vulnerable, helpless and pathetic. At that very moment the attitude of the family becomes absolutely clear and transparent: everyone feels ashamed and diverted from the personality of Gregor. Betrayal from his mother and his sister is nowhere near what Gregor would have ever imagined. His relationship with his father was rocky. He never expected this to become so realistic and heartbreaking. So the main question arising in the mind of the reader is: what if sometimes like
Kafka’s Metamorphosis suggests to his readers to take a glimpse inside a dysfunctional atmosphere triggered from a painful childhood, to see how influential each member of the family contributes to the dynamics, but also to learn how to make light of the situation with acceptance. Kafka is reflecting on his own relationship with his family in Metamorphosis. He sees himself in Gregor, or is he him.
When individuals are rejected by family and society, they tend to feel abandoned and unloved. In Franz Kafka’s, The Metamorphosis, Gregor’s transformation into a “monstrous vermin” (Kafka 1) results in him being psychologically and even physically abused by his family. Rejection from his mother, sister, and father leave Gregor feeling unwanted and feeling as if he is a terrible burden on the family and their well being.