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One of the most prevalent instances of alienation in the novel is the aspect of the physical separation. Gregor Samsa is physically separated from his family both before and after the metamorphosis into a beetle, and physically separated in his work from his customers and his boss. To begin with his job as a traveling salesman, he is not fulfilled in his job and is simply working in order to provide for the family. At his job, he is often far away from the family and subject to abuse from his coworkers. As Kafka writes in The Metamorphosis,
"Who is out of the office practically the whole year round, can so easily become the victim of gossip, coincidences, and unfounded accusations, against which he's completely unable to defend himself since in most cases he knows nothing at all about them except when he returns exhausted from a trip and back home and gets to suffer the brim consequences" (15).
Clearly, the main character suffers harassment at his job, and is therefore physically alienated from his coworkers and his boss because of the remarks and reputation that has developed over time. Gregor Samsa also suffers alienation and fear with his boss directly in that he is afraid of the consequences of arriving late to work. Obviously, he should not feel hostile when thoughts of work drift through his mind; instead, he should feel complete, included, and necessary to the company instead of a distant part that is merely being used. (Sockel 214). Again, Gregor feels physically separated at work from his customers. He is "constantly seeing new faces, with no relationships that last or get more intimate" (Emrich 115). His job is one that is marked by the corrupt tendencies of the office. He feels guilty and constantly torn when his is turned down by future customers, or is neglected the right to form firm, permanent and deep relationships with customers of the business. Gregor recognizes the incompleteness in his job, and has associated it as a part of his life that he will have to accept in order to provide for the family. However, Gregor experiences alienation at home just the same. Physically metamorphosized into a beetle like creature, he struggles to live everyday life. Early on he becomes depressed and unsure of himself. The most striking instances of Gregor's hopeless division occur at the moment he first shows himself in his metamorphosized form to others (Sokel 215). As the novel states, "For two whole weeks, his parents could not bring themselves to come in to him" (29). Gregor is basically locked inside his room because his parents are unable to cope with the fact that their son has been transformed into a gigantic beetle. This is a very hard fact for them to swallow, and leaves a devastating mark on Gregor. Of course, Gregor assumes that they have given up on him, and he feels alienated. In retaliation, Gregor tries to make himself acceptable by covering himself with sheets when he enters the living room, or carefully sacrificing himself so that the family will no have to see him in plain view by enduring pain under the couch. It is clear that Gregor just wants to be accepted, but is left in the dust by the family. He does, however, have some hope with his sister who tries to care for him in part of the novel, but after she gets a job at the bank, she too metamorphosizes into a new person, and leaves Gregor alone and alienated once again. Furthermore, throughout the entire novel, Gregor is denied basic physical rights such as a clean living space, food to eat, and companionship (Freedman 65). This is not only physical alienation and abandonment, but its effects are psychological. Most of the changes that Gregor has to "adapt" to are evoked by the reactions of others concerning his condition, and the major feeling of rejection that he accepts from his boss, father, mother, and sister (Freedman 66). The physical spectra of alienation in the novel is the most obvious that Kafka presents to the readers, but for the most part, the physical alienation is combined with the effects it has on Gregor, which are mostly psychological and emotional.
Gregor endures psychological isolation, a form of alienation, throughout the novel in both his work life, and his home life. However, as his work life and home life combine or disintegrate, depending on how one may view it, Gregor experiences symptoms of hysteria, depression, and a host of other psychological and mind related changes. First of all, he experiences left over feelings from the office experiences. A perfect example of his disturbed feelings can be demonstrated by his unsettling dreams. There can be no doubt that the cause of his unsettling dreams from the beginning of the novel is a result of the inner conflict from his occupational desire to aid the family and from his personal desire to make a final break and become self- reliant and independent from the family (Emrich 120). His lonely routine in the morning can also be significant evidence towards his unhappiness. It is his transformation into an object of disgrace that is clearly not acceptable to an employer that causes consternation of his superego, which in this case is his employer (Webster 352). In other words, he chooses to become a beetle because he knows on the inside that a beetle would be unacceptable to the boss of the company, and he would therefore no longer be subject to working there; it is a poor way out that his mind and inner-self have chosen in order to avoid the present and escape from his problems at work. Gregor manifests physical separation as a beetle to represent alienation and break out of authority and routine. Again, his mind takes over and psychologically, physically separating him from the very disturbing part of his life, his job. ("Metamorphosis"). Of course, one of the most significant effects of his harrowing experience is the change of position at home and with the family. Over time, Gregor had earned enough money for the family to make ends meet and live in a modest apartment, however, over time the family had lost appreciation for the sacrifices that Gregor made every day. It is in their lack of appreciation that Gregor began to feel alienated and used. "They had just gotten used to it, the family as well as Gregor, the money was receivable with thanks and given with pleasure, but no special feeling of warmth went with it anymore" (Kafka 26). It is his realization of the families attitude towards him that causes him to reconsider his life, on the cellular level. The business world of money, assets, and possessions eventually became all that his family was concerned about, and Gregor did not like his families new attitude about this either (Emrich 124). Gregor decides to take matters into his own hands, and by doing so, he becomes unable to work. His position in the family once again changes, except this time, it is sudden. Gregor no longer is the "bread winner" of the family. It is important to remember that Gregor only began working because his father had lost his job as a banking clerk from a business failure. The son, Gregor, becomes strong as a result of the business failures of his father through his competence, and he cripples his father's self esteem. All the while, he takes his father's position in the family as the majority income earner. Following the catastrophe, the same development takes place in reverse as Gregor slips into a depression while his father regains confidence and superiority in the family, and Gregor sinks to the bottom of the pack (Kaiser 72). It is his new change of position in the family that Gregor becomes isolated. It does not stop here, however, in that Gregor faces more torment from his father at home in that his father does not treat Gregor with respect or sympathy but rather rage and anger when he discovers that Gregor has been transformed into a gigantic beetle. "With a hostile expression his father clenched his fist, as if to drive Gregor back to his room, then [Gregor] looked uncertainly around the living room, shielded his eyes with his hands, and sobbed with heaves of his powerful chest (Kafka 14). Emotionally, the hostility of Gregor's father is taking a price on Gregor, but what is even more astonishing is the psychological changes and reactions of his father concerning Gregor. The treatment that Gregor receives not only in this scene, but also in scenes where his father physically abuses Gregor by throwing apple pieces at him, sends the wrong message to Gregor. It tells Gregor that he is not wanted any more, not accepted in the family, and outcast, and an alien. Gregor suffers psychologically as a result because he has to accept the new change in position he has in the family. It is at this moment that the most tragic changes occur in Gregor (Sokel 215). Things would have been better for him if he had support from his mother and sister, but this was not the case. He shows further alienation when his sister, Grete, and his mother remove all of the furniture out of his room in order to give him more room to move around. Even though their decision was based on good intentions, the opposite reaction occurred in Gregor. "The sight of the bare walls was heart breaking. Why shouldn't Gregor have the same feelings, since he had been used to his furniture for so long and would feel abandoned in the empty room." (Kafka 38). It is his very personal room that represents his psyche as a whole. When the furniture is removed from his room, any feelings of love, and hope are removed from his mind, and as his room becomes isolated, so do his thoughts (Webster 351). It was with his new environment, one in which was bare and alone that made him feel isolated. He knew that no one would try to see him in his room if there was no furniture to be cleaned, or at least there to remind him of his family's love and of his past life as a human being. As his past is removed from his room, Gregor is forced to accept his new life, one which he brought upon himself, but also one in which he seeks attention, love, and support. Since he does not receive any, he becomes psychologically isolated from the rest of the world, and from his family. Kafka does not depict Gregor as a failure arising from human inferiority, but a man going to pieces from the consequences of his working life and his private existence as a human being, and for the most part, the psychological effects that it has not only on him but his entire family leave Gregor feeling isolated and alienated as a whole (Richter 186). With all of this in mind, it is obvious to see how Gregor became psychologically alienated and isolated from circumstances at his job and his home.
Gregor experiences a vast array of emotional feelings related to the metamorphosis, some of which are related to the psychological and physical aspects of his alienation. For the most part, Gregor receives emotional disaffection from his work life and home life that contribute to his alienation. It is easy to understand how a person may feel emotional disaffection when they are isolated from the rest of the world and treated without respect by any person. For instance, Gregor suffers emotional disaffection at his job. Gregor believes deeply in his heart that he has to provide his family a pleasant secure life, and in order to do so, he recognizes that he must sacrifice himself to the business world. Doing so would give his family two things: a reason to love him with more passion and a reason to support and ensure their way of life (Emrich 126). Unfortunately, his plan backfired because he became a beetle. His own inner self was sacrificed for his family. Since he is alien to himself, Kafka assigns him a form that is alien to him, the form of a venomous creature that essentially threatens his existence (Emrich 127). His emotional disaffection continues after he is a beetle on the financial and work related level, but at his very home. As the narrator of the novella briefly explains, "In those days, had been the duty of Gregor to do everything in his power to make the family forget as quickly as possible the business disaster which had plunged everyone in his family into despair." His father was especially hard hit by his economic failure because his behavior changed into a condition of physical and mental lethargy which included him neglecting his appearance, sleeping, and remaining still for most of the day (Kaiser 81). Once again, here is an example of how Gregor chooses to take the emotional punch in order to spare his family the heartbreaking thoughts of being broke, homeless, and hungry. After Gregor metamorphosizes, he is transformed into a useful member of the family to a burden that has to be extinguished. After Gregor is transformed and has realized his new position in the family, he says bleakly "Gregor said to himself, and while he stared rigidly in front of him into the darkness, he felt very proud that he had been able to provide such a life in so nice an apartment for his parents and his sister" (Kafka 21). Of course the family did not recognize that he was still an individual after his transformation but rather a bug. It then was the commandment of the family duty to swallow their disgust and endure him and endure him and nothing else (Kafka 38). The family began to become emotionally detached from Gregor, and this simply left Gregor feeling emotional disaffection. His new role in the family is not stated but can be inferred that he is severed from the family and on his own. His home life, however is still filled with some joy. He continues to hope for peace and still loves his family. He diverts his attention from himself to his sister Grete, who plays the violin. Only his sister remains close to him and it was his secret plan to send her to music school next year to learn the violin regardless of the great expense involved in sending her there. Gregor demonstrates emotional detachment, and strives to hold on to the last piece of emotional security he has with the family, his relationship with his sister, and he desperately tries to include himself in the family affairs so he would not be forgotten and with hope, reinsured and accepted. Nevertheless, this is not the case for Gregor. Gregor becomes his own worst enemy towards the end of the story, and choses formally accept the emotional disaffection from his family, and detach himself completely. His self- esteem sinks to an all time low, and eventually his starvation, pain, and psychologically and emotionally drained body deteriorated and he dies. Since he chooses to die on his own, it is in his death that he is not only extinguished but also set free (Freedman 73). It is his tragic death that marks the beginning of another chapter in the family's life. One that is not only more financially secure, but free from the inconvenience of their only son. Gregor, the tragic hero is one of the most tragic in the world, because he is deprived human dignity, the "beautiful form of the human shape." His death, however, is not a reward to the family's future, but rather, an inward emotional and psychological one towards himself (Sokel 214). It is Gregor's death that is his release, his reward, and his final attempt to be remembered loved and emotionally part of his only family. When his metamorphosis is finally accepted from his family, the other characters show themselves for who they are (Honig 65). It is the families emotional disaffection that pushes Gregor over the edge in the end, and alienates him into another world, not one of a human or of a beetle, but one of a divine presence.
In conclusion, it is important to remember, that the title is misleading. Overall, it is not just Gregor that is metamorphosized, but also the father, mother, and sister because they are all equally transformed into different people through their responses to Gregor (Webster 350). It is with the complex story line and form of climax through denouncement from beginning to end of the novel that alienation is demonstrated in the workplace and at home on the physical, psychological, and emotional levels. Kafka vividly and objectively describes life as an insect and a human being on others and the many effects it can have both on the insect and the family. It is in the Metamorphosis that Kafka's ideas are carefully intertwined with aspects of his own life to express the final and most important ideal... alienation. His careful attention to human love, life, and psyche make The Metamorphosis one of the greatest pieces of twentieth century literature.