“The Metamorphosis” By Franz Kafka: A Book Review


Like many other works by Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis is a surreal look at human psychology. This story bizarrely combines fantastic events and the dry style of realistic narration, as well as the lack of emotions in the presentation and the personal drama of the protagonist. The current paper is devoted to analyzing The Metamorphosis with a detailed description of critical symbolic elements and significant themes that convey the main intentions of the author.

Review of the Plot

The central character is Gregor Samsa born into a poor Prague family. In addition to his father and mother, the hero also has a younger sister named Greta. The whole family of the protagonist consists of people who have purely material needs. When Gregor’s father goes bankrupt, the protagonist decides to work as a cloth salesman. Since then, it has been the family’s primary income source. In addition, Franz Kafka writes that Gregor’s mother suffered from an incurable disease – asthma. At first, his mother and sister showed him truly Christian feelings, namely love and compassion. However, after a while, women begin to feel disgusted and hostility towards their sons and brother because they are forced to reduce their expenses and live in poverty significantly.

Finally, the mother’s hope for his salvation practically cuts to pieces, and the father’s anger only intensifies. This is what causes the death of the main character. In a rage, the father throws rotten apples at his son, one of which gets stuck in the insect’s back. The protagonist’s death relieved the members of the family from this painful burden (Kafka 50). None of them is entirely saddened by Gregor’s death and sad fate. At this time, father, mother, and Greta finally improve the quality of their lives.



The Meaning of 3

The number three can be seen in the triple image of the protagonist. Gregor Samsa is his physical body, spiritual incarnation, and mind. Doors with three wings are symbolic, which are either closed or open. This speaks of the unstable situation of the family. Moreover, in Orthodoxy, the door symbolizes hope and mercy. Gregor waited for his relatives to show these feelings for him, but this did not happen. In addition to the main character, three people live in the house, three servants, and three tenants (Kafka 42). These numbers are not confidential phenomena but are used by the author as the symbolic elements of the narration. The number three has always symbolized harmony. In work, there should also be harmony in everything – in the soul, thoughts, and body, but in the end, the characters conclude that they violate it. Trinity cannot exist with the family of Gregor, and as a result, the spiritual world falls apart.

Gregor’s Silence

Having lost the ability to speak, Gregor could no longer tell loved ones about his thoughts and feelings and comfort and cheer them up. This is the symbolism of the protagonist’s muteness. Most people try to live as quickly as possible and do what seems essential to them, but they forget to say the most important words to relatives and friends. For example, we are more willing to discuss the profits of a good deal than to tell a loved one that we love him. Gregor lived the same way, and after turning into an insect, he could never again say essential words to his parents and sister, who tried to take care of him.


The door motif plays a crucial role in the story. Gregor, the subject of the narration, represents the primary focus of the inner space. The change of the family’s attitude in the situation in the second part is also reflected in the image of the doors. At the beginning of the second part, Gregor still succeeds through the gap to observe what is happening in the room. At this point, all the doors are gradually closed. When the doors were locked in the morning, everyone wanted to enter him, but now, when he opened one door himself, nobody entered (Kafka 20). Then the doors are already unlocked with a critical when bringing food.

The interior is associated with character and his humanity loss. Gregor’s sister and mother manipulate him, and he becomes a vital plot driver dying from the apple injury. Therefore, the symbolic meaning of the door motif is quite apparent. Doors symbolize communication between people or its absence. A closed door is, first of all, a refusal to communicate, a lack of mutual understanding. The desire to open doors represents an intention to be united with people.

The Image of Insect

The reader cannot help but be struck by the naturalness with which a key event of transformation occurs that changes the life of the hero. This is the whole horror of the Kafkaesque world: any terrible event in it is exceptionally every day and natural. Thus, the writer shows that the world is initially absurd, and one should not expect anything good from it. This is also emphasized at the linguistic level. The language of Kafka’s works has a precise and strict intonation that contrasts with the nightmarish content of the story. The extreme everydayness of the events described tells the reader that this can happen to anyone at any moment in life. Moreover, Kafka emphasizes that each person is such an insect to another.



The author chose the motive of transformation in order to separate the hero from the society around him and to make him different from everyone else. The most vital aim was to tear him out of the familiar world, exposing the pitfalls of his seemingly peaceful existence. By bringing up the topic of family relationships, the author emphasizes that when Gregor was a man, family members treated him with disdain. Despite such an attitude, the character still sacrifices his interest to meet his family’s needs. Once in a strange body, a young man is primarily afraid not of the very fact of transformation but that he will not be able to feed his family (Kafka 3). It can be noted that the pressure of the author’s father in childhood affects the described world of his works, making it cruel, absurd, and ruthless to the human person. In The Metamorphosis, in the relationship between the older Samsa and the younger, supporters of this view find Kafka’s almost autobiographical experiences, manifestations of his father’s complex, seasoned with absurd fantasy.


In Samsa’s father, the author pictures not just a rude person but something more deep – God himself. In the scene where he throws apples (the image of the forbidden fruit) at the insectoid son, it is so tempting to see the analogy with the expulsion from paradise. The situation can be compared when Gregor eventually dies from one of these apples when it begins to rot, stuck in his body.


Kafka uses absurd reality to talk about the most ordinary phenomena that every person can encounter. Only the person himself makes a choice about how to react to these phenomena of changes within one’s personality. One can hide from changes, like Gregor, and eventually disappear or fight to preserve own personality, such as it is even if it is as vile as a dirty insect. However, the main idea here is to strive for a better life by finding the true self.

Work Cited

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis (Webster’s German Thesaurus Edition). ICON Group International, 2006.