Gregor’s Behavior In “The Metamorphosis” By Kafka

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a true classic of fiction of the early twentieth century. However, it is underestimated because of the abundance of symbols that many readers do not understand. The novel was written in 1912 and implied as a part of a compilation called Punishments, along with his other works In the Penal Colony and the Judgement. However, this collection was not published during the author’s lifetime because of unsuccessful negotiations with the publisher. The Metamorphosis tells a story about a traveling salesman Gregor Samsa and his family, namely his father, mother, and sister Grete. However, this piece of art is full of deeper meaning, demonstrated by metaphors, symbols, and other literary techniques.

At the beginning of the novel, the main character Gregor wakes up to discover that he has turned into a giant insect. He tries to roll over to the right side to fall asleep but fails. After that, the narrator explains the situation that developed in his family before this metamorphosis. Gregor’s father went bankrupt and is heavily in debt but does not intend to work. His mother suffers from a disease similar to asthma and occasional attacks, and she does not work because of her age. Gregor’s sister Grete is only seventeen years, she plays violin, and Gregor wants to earn enough money to send her to the conservatory. Even this morning, he thinks about his parents’ debt and that he will be able to cover it in five or six years. Even though he is overtired, hates his job, and does not sleep enough, Gregor is ready to make sacrifices for the family’s sake. However, it is no longer relevant because he has changed, and life is not like before. With time Gregor understands that this is not a nightmare and cannot be altered or influenced in any way.

The German original calls Gregor “Ungeziefer,” but unfortunately, none of the English words used by translators describe this word verbatim. Different interpreters used words like “gigantic insect,” “monstrous vermin,” and “enormous bug” some of them used the word “cockroach” and “fly.” However, the author does not specify what kind of creature this is, as well leaves Gregor’s parents unnamed. The word “Ungeziefer” describes any kind of unclean creature or being. A certain understatement is a common feature of many of Kafka’s works. The reader only knows that Gregor became a bug of gigantic size. His family does not understand him, but he understands and retains the ability to think. They do not know what to do with him and leave him locked in the room. With time, every family member, including Grete, stopped feeling any connection between them and Gregor. The transformation symbolizes every group of people that are shunned or neglected by society, such as immigrants, foreigners, etc. Often, people use words like “parasite” or “cockroach” to describe these groups of people. From the breadwinner, Gregor becomes an outcast and a burden to the family.

Symbols play an important role in many of Kafka’s works, and this one is not an exception. One of the most vital symbols to understand the novel is the picture of the woman on the wall. Gregor holds on to it because it is the last human thing left in his room. He remembers how he bought this piece of art being a human, and it reminds him of the life he could have had if that morning did not happen. The food that Grete brings to Gregor is a symbol of his family’s respect. It is also one of his anchors in terms of being a human inside. Even though he cannot eat the food he used to eat and he prefers it rotten, it maintains humanity in him. With time the family gets tired of feeding him, and Gregor does not want to be a burden. They make him suffer from hunger while new lodgers eat how much they want in their kitchen. His starvation, in the end, led him to death, and his family did not regret it but felt relief instead.

The novel Metamorphosis shows the capitalist world’s issues clearly and in color. No matter how people strive for their family destroying their health slowly if their lives start to depend on others, attitude towards them will not be the same. What matters is their job and income, and when people lose it, they stop being humans in others’ eyes. Even though, at the end of the novel, each member of the Samsa family does not empathize with Gregor, the person that injured him the most is his father, Mr. Samsa. His attitude brings to mind that he never truly loved Gregor but used his job and salary to live. Now the whole family needed to work to survive in this situation. It turned out that the father accumulated a certain amount of money from Gregor’s past income and had some money left after the bankruptcy. The family’s financial position improves because Mr. and Mrs. Samsa find jobs, as well as Grete. It is essential to mention that some critics think that Franz Kafka portrays Gregor’s father as a reflection of his own father.

Unfortunately, Gregor’s life looked like a bug’s life even before the metamorphosis. He woke up every morning and went to work to earn money for food and an apartment. After work, he returned home to go to his room and sleep. However, it does not mean that he deserved this tragedy. It happens for no reason, just like somebody dies from cancer, becomes a person with special needs, or loses their mind. The novel shows the humanity of Gregor and his love for the family, even when nobody wants to remember him. His punishment was undeserved, just like many other great people who suffer. He was a kind and hardworking man, but his transformation was a condition of modern capitalistic life, in which a man’s life is valued by his job and wages. Even though his family stopped caring about him, Gregor always loved every member of his family and decided to leave this world to make their life easier. The metamorphosis was not a punishment for his fault but an injustice that belonged to this world.

To conclude, every aspect of Franz Kafka’s novel called The Metamorphosis tells a reader about inequity. Gregor Samsa is an example of a hardworking and caring man that loves his family so much that he is ready to work every day and night for them to feel well. Kafka demonstrates how every human with disabilities can feel using the allegorical style of the story. Unfortunately, bad things happen with good people, which is impossible to change.