The story of The Metamorphosis is one that is very subtle and very delicate. Kafka wrote in a fashion that would allow a reader to interpret the story in a way that may be different each time it is read. From the beginning, we see that a young, hard working, man, Gregor, has turned into a bug, and as the story continues, one can see that he was much more than an insect.
What else could he be? Even after his death, it is obvious that Gregor was there for a cause. His family depended on him for their happiness. The purpose of his existence was to serve his family. His mother and father created him and were the driving force behind his physical change.
There was a lack of communication that existed throughout the story that revealed how unappreciated they were of Gregor and his sister, who was on her way towards becoming like her brother.
Gregor was very important to the family’s welfare. At first, he was the only working member of the family, and his job was very important; the whole future of Gregor and his family depended on it (p.84). For so long he wanted to quit his work because he wasn’t happy with it. But he said to himself, “Besides, I have to provide for my parents and my sister. (pp. 82-83).”
He felt that his family was too dependent on him. When Gregor wouldn’t let anyone in his room in fear that they would be horrified by his condition, he thought that his family was harassing him because he was in danger of losing his job, and because the chief would begin harassing his parents again for the old debts” (p. 76). At this point, everyone was angry and wanted him to get up for work.
All that mattered to the family was what Gregor was able to provide. After his secret of change to an insect was discovered, they realized that he was no longer of any use to the family, and he was unappreciated in every way. He didn’t have his job and no longer had anything to offer. “The house soon started to fall apart; the household was reduced more and more “(p. 113). Gregor was now a problem for he had no function in the family. They locked him up, imprisoning him by not allowing him out of his room.
Slowly, his possessions were removed, and for some time no one bothered to clean his room, the cleaning of his room could not have been more hastily done. “Streaks of dirt stretched along the walls, here and there lay balls of dust and filth.” (pp. 114-115). Anything that was not needed for the moment was simply thrown into Gregors room. They couldn’t see beyond the obvious. To them, he was only a bug and not Gregor. For this reason, they simply did not show him the respect that he deserved.
Understanding Gregor was something that his parents failed to do. Even before his metamorphosis, there was a communication problem within the family.
When Gregor first speaks to answer his mother, he didn’t recognize his own voice. Kafka explains: “Gregor had a shock as he heard his own voice answering hers, unmistakably his own voice, it was true, but with a persistent horrible twittering squeak behind it like an undertone, that left the words in their clear shape only for the first moment and then rose up reverberating round them to destroy their sense, so that one could not be sure one had heard them rightly” (p. 70).
As awful as he sounded, his mother did not recognize the difference in his voice, suggesting that they didn’t speak often. Nothing changed after his metamorphosis, however, and the family continued to misunderstand Gregor.
They failed to realize that, even as a bug, Gregor was still there and that he could understand everything they had to say. Many times he tried to show his loyalty, “but the more humbly he bent his head his father only stamped on the floor the more loudly (p. 86).” His sister, whom Gregor trusted most, even tried to convince his parents that Gregor is no longer with them. “My dear parents, she said, things can’t go on like this. I won’t utter my brothers same in the presence of this creature and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it (p. 124).”
Gregor was not to be accepted for who he was. After some time, his family still hadn’t got used to him. “He realized how repulsive the sight of him still was to her, and that it was bound to go on being repulsive (p. 99).” Gregor’s condition resulted from the abuse that he took from his family, and he was much wiser because of it. He had gotten used to his change and actually enjoyed being a bug. “He especially liked hanging from the ceiling” (p. 100). And all the talk of him made him think more.
He came to the conclusion that he was better off as a bug and did not want things to go back to the way they were. He was often haunted by the idea that the next time the door opened “he would take the family’s affairs in hand again just as he used to do” (p. 114). He thought more logically as a bug and was tired of everyone depending on him.
Gregor was not the only person affected in this story. His parents started to abuse his sister in the same way. Their son’s unemployment forced her to get a job. She was then helping to support the family as Gregor once did. After he died, her mother and father both noticed something at almost the same time. They saw how grown up she had become and that it was time for her to find a husband and, in a way, marry another Gregor. He was a hindrance to the family’s happiness, even after he died.
“With the new jobs they had found, Gregor’s death was likely to lead to better things later on (p. 132),” because they no longer deal with the problem of keeping him and hiding him from strangers. Each time the subject of Gregor came up, they would mention how useless he was. He was only good when he could provide for the family and so was never really appreciated for who he was.
The fact that they didn’t communicate well before Gregor’s metamorphosis made it even harder to find him behind the mask of a giant insect in which they had created. His sister was making a change of her own also. Early in his metamorphosis “Gregor would stretch his legs and try to get comfortable” (p. 71). The same stretch is duplicated by his sister when she, too, sprang to her feet and stretched her body.
She would be going through a similar change. The parents were the reason why both of them turned out the way they did. Their total interest in living a comfortable life made them unable to see what was happening with Gregor. Despite all his effort, they failed to realize that part of that insect that they had treated so cruelly was actually their son.
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