The Metamorphosis

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Living in a society, which demands conformity to its norms, any individual who refuses to accept these faces alienation. You may find yourself feeling alone and as if you are not a part of the everyday activities in the community or in your own household. Isolation may not be realized until it is too late. As is true with the protagonist in The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself “changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” (Kafka 3) To most people this would be devastating but to Gregor this just seems to be a minor inconvenience. He still seems to want to do all the things he did for his family prior to his metamorphosis. When he wakes up as this hideous creature his first worries are not what will I do about this. Instead Gregor’s first worries are that he missed the train and how is he going to make it to work on time. Not even realizing until he is nearly dead that his family has alienated him this whole time and that he was the inconvenience. The theme of Alienation is shown through the symbolism of locked doors, Gregor’s metamorphosis and his job.

During your lifetime you will travel along many pathways, some will lead to new friendships and entertaining times with people that you love. Other pathways will lead to heartbreak and tragedy in your life. No matter what happens in your life you can normally look back at those paths that you took and know that you chose to take them. Sometimes we will run into obstacles on our journey through life. A lost job, a death in the family or maybe you are just not feeling like yourself and this causes you to miss out on some fun that could’ve been had. These obstacles are like locked doors in our life, we want to know what is on the other side of the door but no matter how hard we try, we just can not seem to open it. This is how things are for Gregor. He and his family lock their doors even when they are home. This may seem like something that is just being done for safety but once Gregor wakes up as an insect he is no imprisoned in his own bedroom because he can no longer unlock the door. “ Gregor, an adult, is a prisoner in his own family. …On the other hand, he is a total stranger in the family and lives in their midst in the state of exile which in his diary Kafka calla ‘Russian’ ” (Kafka 169) This symbolizes how even is Gregor wants to go out and see his family to try and figure our what is wrong with him, he can not do so without a struggle. The family locks themselves out of the world and Gregor locks his family out of his life. When Gregor decides he is going to try and see his family he has to use a chair to reach the door and he uses his mouth to unlock the door and after several tries he is successful but not before injuring himself because he is an insect so he has no hands.

Which brings us to our next point. Why a beetle like insect. Why not a dog or a cat, something that people would not scream at the very sight of it. This was done to enhance the theme of isolation. If Gregor woke up, as a cute puppy dog the story would not have had the same affect because his family would have accepted him and would have been able to adapt to having a dog on the house. How do you explain to your family and friends that come over why you have a giant beetle in your living room? This forces his family to keep him locked up inside his bedroom. The only person who pays any attention to him is his sister. She feeds him and cleans his room for him everyday. At first she did not know what kinds of foods that he liked so she would bring him a wide assortment to choose from. She would pay attention to the things that he liked so she would give him more of those things and the food he disliked as to not serve them to him again. His mother tried her hardest to be a part of his like but she could not stand to look at his repulsive figure. “Grete’s words had now made her mother really anxious; she stepped to one side, caught sight of the gigantic brown blotch on the flowered wallpaper, and before it really dawned on her that what she saw was Gregor, cried in a hoarse, bawling voice: ‘Oh, God, Oh, God!’; and as if giving up completely, she fell with outstretched arms across the couch and did not stir.”(Kafka 36) His father on the other hand was the least caring and compassionate. He was angry with Gregor for something that he had no control over. His father could not even look at him and he tried to pretend that Gregor did not even exist. Right after Gregor’s death while his mother and sister seem to be sad his father says, “Come on now, come over here. Stop brooding over the past. And have a little consideration for me, too”(Kafka 57) Gregor had not been dead more than a few hours and his dad is basically saying, get over it already. Gregor realized before his death that he was not a part of this family long before his metamorphosis.

Every household needs financial support. It is simply a fact of life, you need food, and clothing, shelter and all of life’s essentials have to come from somewhere. In most households the parents are the providers and the children if they have a job where they can afford to help out they might do so as well. This was not the case for Gregor, he was the sole provider in his household and that is all he was. His parents and his sister did not include him in any of their daily activities and they barely considered him part of the family. His actual name choice by the author is interesting as well, “Doubtless [the name Samsa] is a cryptogram for Kafka; but beyond this it is probably also a phonetic contraction of the Czech words sàm (‘alone’) and jsem (‘I am’) = ‘I am alone,’” (Kafka, 64). His father’s business had closed down and his mother did not work and his sister was too young to have a job, “ He believed he had to provide for his family with a pleasant, contented, secure life by sacrificing himself, by selling himself to his business. The reciprocal relationships are based on compromises, the consequences of which are no longer even suspected by anyone. The semblance of an orderly system and of a ‘contented’ world is created.”(Kafka, 124) The family relied on Gregor’s money and after a while the actually started to expect it. “They had just gotten used to it, the family as well as Gregor, the money was received with thanks and given with pleasure, but no special feelings of warmth went with it any more.”(Kafka, 126) You may be thinking that this is ok for him to do; he is being an honorable young man by stepping up to the plate when his fathers business shut down. This would be ok while his father was searching for a new job, for Gregor to help out. His father never looked for a new job they leeched off of Gregor and let him do all of the work while they sat there and did nothing. We find out late in the story that money was not as tight as they made it seem. After Gregor’s metamorphosis we find out that his father had money put away and this is what they lived on until his family all found part time jobs. Before Gregor is transformed into the creature, he was only the "bread-winner" for his family. Like a workhorse, he was only there to serve a purpose, to pay the bills. His family alienated him from their lives before the change. Gregor worked hard, kept to himself, and had minimal communication with them because of his long work hours. This is what they came to expect and never tried to change it to included Gregor in the family. When the change takes place, the family is more concerned with how they will survive financially than with Gregor's well being. (28)

In closing, there are few things in life that everyone will experience. Alienation is one of those things. No matter who you are you will be alienated in some way at one point or another in your lifetime. In The Metamorphosis the theme of alienation is shown through the symbolism of locked doors, Gregor’s metamorphosis, and how he was alienated even before his transformation through his job. Do not live your life running around and working so hard for something that is unattainable. Gregor worked long hours every day to try and get his family’s love when really all he needed to do was to spend some time with them. By working hard and trying to pay the bills for his family he was pushing himself further and further away from them. After a while he was just like the roommates at the end of the story, he was just some guy who lived with them and gave them money every month. Strong family values are very important, making sure that the ones we love are safe and have the things that they need to survive is very important, but at what cost? Are you willing to not be a part of the very family that you are trying to help? It is not worth it, always help your family in whatever way you can, but make sure that you are still enjoying life while you do it.

Works Cited

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. 1972 Stanley Corngold
Schocken Books, Inc.