The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka begins with Gregor Samsa. Gregor is a traveling salesman; one morning he wakes up from his bed to find himself transformed into a large unidentified insect. He reflects on how dull and depressing his life is as a traveling salesman and how if he had things his way, he would quit. However, he can’t because his family depends on him and his income. Becoming an insect changed his role of being the provider to someone being dependent of others. This overall took a toll on his family, but the question still stands on how he even got transformed into an insect in the first place. I believe that Gregor was turned into an insect for no particular reason other than being a slave to Kafka’s imagination to prove the theme of the absurdity of life.
There is no indication that Gregor deserves his fate, by all evidence Gregor has been a good son and brother, taking a job he dislikes so that he can provide for them and planning to pay for his sister to study music at the conservatory. It is also notable that the story never implies that Gregor’s transformation has a particular cause. From the beginning of the story, The Metamorphosis deals with an absurd, or wildly irrational, event, which in itself suggests that the story operates in a random, chaotic universe made by the author. Everyone in the family treats this as some random occurrence. All of this adds to the theme of the absurdity of life. The responses of the various characters add to this sense of absurdity, specifically because they seem almost as absurd as Gregor’s transformation itself. The characters are unusually calm and unquestioning, and most don’t act particularly surprised by the event. Gregor panics only at the thought of getting in trouble at work, not at the realization that he is a literal bug, and he makes no efforts to determine what caused it or how to fix it. In fact, the other characters in the story generally treat the metamorphosis as something unusual and disgusting like a disease, but not exceptionally horrifying or impossible, and they mostly focus on adapting to it rather than running away from Gregor or trying to cure him. According to Ben- Ephraim, the author of Making and Breaking Meaning: Deconstruction, Four-level Allegory and The Metamorphosis he states that The Metamorphosis is Demanding yet refusing interpretation, the picture predominates because it cannot be framed, developing an uncanny power as a sign resisting the context that would make it a symbol. By giving us a giant insect that exceeds any metaphorical equation, Kafka shows the monstrous force of a signifier without a clear signified. (Ephraim 452). He meant that the change was sudden and impractical and it isn’t clear what made Gregor turn into an insect and there is no way in telling if there was a higher power behind his transformation or not because the text denies us that information, it doesn’t give us a clear reason as to why.
His metamorphosis did have a huge impact on his life and his relationships with the people around him. A case study on the story mentioned that Through jarring, almost unrealistic narration, Kafka opens up the readers to a view of Gregor’s futile and disappointing life as a human bug. In fact, ” The Metamorphosis ” is mainly about the difficult life of a ” monster “, the word being taken in all its possible acceptations, physical or mental. (Silhol 9). Gregor’s transformation completely alters his outward appearance, but it leaves his mind unchanged. When he first gets out of his bed after waking, for instance, he tries to stand upright, even though he literally cant because he can’t stand upright like a human anymore. He also thinks of going to work, despite the fact that he can’t even get out of bed due to his body transformation. He continues to think with a human mind, but because his body is no longer human, he is unable to come to terms with these two parts of himself. For example, When Gregor finally gets the door ajar, only half his body is visible and his grotesque body is revealed to his family and manager (Kafka 15). Undoubtedly, Gregor feels remorse and shameful that he cannot support his family and they seem him as a burden in their household because he can no longer meet their expectations of him supporting the family. As Gregor starts to get used to his new body, his mind begins to change in accordance with his physical needs and desires. Yet he’s never able to fully bring his mind and body to synergize well.
Gregor’s change affects the relationships he has around him. After Gregor’s metamorphosis, his family members struggle with feelings of both sympathy and a sense of disgust and loathing toward him. Basically, they don’t know whether they should feel bad for him or not. Grete and the mother in particular feel a great deal of sympathy for Gregor after his change, apparently because they think Gregor still has some of his humanity. Eventually, however, the stresses caused by Gregor’s presence wear down the family members’ sympathy, and even the most caring of them find that their sympathy has a limit. Leading them to get rid of him.
Some believe that Gregor’s transformation was actually due to him going insane. I disagree with the theory that Gregor is insane especially since this theory would totally change the meaning behind everything. The Metamorphosis seeks to show the reader that it is unnecessary to follow what others want from you, and that if you do this you will be unsatisfied. It also shows that much love from people, even family, is only a conditional love, and many people only love you for what you can do for them. If Gregor did not actually transform into an insect, then the whole book would be useless. Besides this, The Metamorphosis is exactly as it sounds, it is the physical metamorphosis of a young man into an insect, and it can be seen blatantly in the first sentence of the novel which states, One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into horrible vermin (Kafka 1). If Gregor were not physically transformed into an insect, it would be more evident as to how Gregor was mentally unstable. The book is also written in third person, so it tells an unbiased account of a story, not the perspective of one person.
In conclusion, I believe that Gregor’s unfortunate fate was created by the author to tell a great story. Kafka uses his Gregor’s metamorphosis to teach us that the moral of the story is that love sometimes isn’t enough and that life is absurd sometimes.