In Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor, the main character wakes up one morning as a gigantic insect. Gregor is the one who provides for the family and he is paying off their debts. However, it is ironic how such a hard worker turns into a hideous insect. Gregor is the one sacrificing his freedom and time to provide for his family but his family neglects and isolates him after his transformation into an insect. Regardless of how this is interpreted, it has a deep philosophical meaning. In writing this, Kafka is emphasizing how family ties are not always strong because the change of one person’s identity could result in the metamorphosis of the entire family and in Gregor’s case it could result in separation from family.
The metamorphosis of the family occurs when Gregor turns into an insect and he can’t provide for the family anymore and that leads to his neglect. This presents a motif of living or just existing. Gregor is simply existing because he is constrained in the mindset that he has to help the family and he is not able to do what he wants to do. The author is trying to say that not living is just existing, just like an insect’s life. That is why Gregor turns into an insect. Aside from just providing to the family, Gregor has no purpose to his life, so he might as well turn into an insect that only exists. This causes Gregor to be just a useless creature walking around the house. However, his family used to have need for him but not a want. When he leaves, the family struggles because now they have to work. In the story it says, “With a kind of mulishness his father persisted in keeping his uniform on even in the house…” This quote symbolizes how Gregor’s father is all about work now because he now always keeps his uniform on.
In the novella, the relationship between Gregor and his father shows the deteriorating family bond. In the story, it says, “But another following immediately landed right on his back and sank in … incredible pain could be left behind…” The apple thrown by Gregor’s father sinks into Gregor’s back and it stays there. Then days later the apple starts to rot. Here, the apple represents the relationship between Gregor and his father. Similarly, Gregor’s relationship with his father is breaking apart. This shows how the relationship was only bonded by the money that Gregor was providing to the family meaning that it wasn’t based on their similarities and friendship. In addition, when Gregor says that the apple hurt his body, it shows how the relationship is really bad now because it shows the pain from the neglect and disrespect towards him. Gregor says, “‘How these lodgers are stuffing themselves, and here I am dying of starvation!’” They don’t even care about Gregor, and the lodgers, who are strangers, seem to be more important. The relationship with his father illustrates that before he turned into an insect, Gregor was only a servant, but now he is neglected just because he has a different body and can’t provide for the family anymore.
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Aside from being neglected by his father, Gregor is also neglected by his sister and mother who know that the insect is Gregor himself. Unlike his father both of them had hope that Gregor would get better but soon they both care less about Gregor. The narrator says, “To find out what she liked she brought him a whole selection of food, all set out on an old newspaper.” His sister is understanding and she treats him as a person even though he is an insect. That is only because she was close to Gregor while he was still human. However, his sister starts to care less about what she should feed him and she doesn’t bother a lot about cleaning his room. His room a squalor now that no one really bothers to clean it up. This makes sense because once a person’s identity has changed you can’t see them through their old identity. Also, Gregor had been isolated from the family, which keep them distant. The problem is that they know that the insect is Gregor, but they choose to neglect him because he can’t help them even though they should be thankful for what he has done. Later Gregor’s sister says that he is useless and that he should be kicked out of the house. In addition, when Gregor dies, his mother doesn’t seem to care and only reacts as if some stranger died. Kafka is saying that a family like this is not a family because they only depend on what one gives, but they don’t care about that person.
Sadly, after all his sacrifices, Gregor undeservedly turns into a hideous insect. Highly disliked and forgotten Gregor keeps fighting for his life until he dies, thus fulfilling the family’s wishes. Kafka shows how family members could be the ones taking advantage of a person and one could never know about that. By writing the Metamorphosis Kafka shows that even your closest relatives could use you when at the same time they care very little about you.