‘The Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafka
Often in modern literature, a character decides to reject social expectations and live with the consequences of being an “outsider.” This is exactly the case represented by Gregor, a character in Franz Kafka’s, ‘The Metamorphosis’. Gregor’s transformation occurs during one morning when he awakes from troubled dreams and finds himself transformed into a horrible vermin (the beetle). Although he is worried of the transformation at the start, he appears to accept this reality and never stops to inquire how such a change could occur. The lack of questioning seems exceedingly unusual. This is because, in normal circumstances, one would suppose that someone who transformed into an insect to inquire about the probability of such an occurrence. This apparent lack of concern about Gregor’s condition begs a question as to whether or not any physical transformation or change actually did occur. In this sense, Kafka brings out Gregor as a character who rebels against the society as he cannot be able to play his role in the family and does not question his transformation. Rather, Gregor conforms to his being an insect, which he thinks is best for him. This however, comes as a consequence of pressure imposed on him.
The transformation that Gregor experiences is perceived as a deviation from the social expectations, and he decides to live with the consequences of being a ‘rebel’. This is demonstrated in the way Kafka uses the character in drama and brings out the character as a rebel. However, this occurs due to the circumstances that exist in Gregor’s life. Before his transformation, Gregor lived a moderately boring life, which did not vary much from the life of a bug. He involved himself only with his work in order to afford for his family. In this case, he did not have any hobbies or real friends. The real metamorphosis brought out by Kafka occurs when Gregor realizes his current condition and his role in the family (household). He certainly does not transform into a beetle but rather realizes he has been a bug for comparatively some time. The abrupt epiphany would most likely send into a shock which causes the mental sickness that ultimately causes his death. Kafka’s metaphor is represented in the story by Gregor. For instance, out of all things that Gregor could transform into, he turns into a bug. One cannot help but to draw comparisons between Gregor’s real life and the life of a bug. Most insects have some form of workers that cater for the needs of the group. On the other hand, Gregor provides for members of his family in the same manner as an insect does. Gregor sacrifices nearly all sorts of fun and wishes to do nothing else but work. In the long run, his income becomes more of an expectation and less of a kind act. The existence of his family lies on his shoulders.
As Gregor commits to providing for the needs of his family, his family becomes increasingly productive and gives weak excuses why they do not do much. The changes that occur in the family of Samsa go unrealized by Gregor since he focuses so much on his work and ceases expecting any financial assistance from them. A normal individual can imagine this newfound responsibility can become quite irritating, and ultimately Gregor cannot take it any longer. He realizes that he acts like a bug that carries out his family’s responsibility in order from them to keep on living lazily. Therefore, the metamorphosis is explained here by Kafka. Upon the realization, the role of Gregor reverses completely. Once he becomes the only breadwinner, Gregor becomes unable to work for his family, possibly because he gets tired of their dependency on him. However, this metamorphosis happens subconsciously, because Gregor still wants to go to work although, deep down he knows that his family will be in a better position if he does not.
The metaphor in the story is used to describe communication in the family of Samsa. As the paychecks of Gregor become progressively more expected, his family starts to see him as less of a human being, except for Grete, his sister. When Gregor delays to awake for work, his mother tells him that he will be late. He is not worried about anything being wrong until when the sister appears to be concerned that he will fail to catch the train. He speaks to himself about the silent life led by his family as there is no good communication between him and his family possibly caused by his recurrent business trips. Spending a lot of time away working isolates him from his family and additionally makes him appear as a paycheck to the family rather than a family member.
The lack of communication between Gregor and his family remains the same before and after his transformation, distinct from his ability to work. His transformation simply draws attention to the difficulty of Gregor in conversing with his family. After the transformation, Gregor realizes the complexity of communicating with his family. As Gregor continues to discover himself, he eventually sees how less his family members understand and this makes him give up altogether. Gregor could possibly continue talking, but his parents would not listen. As the transformation takes place, his parents see the real Gregor and have no interest in conversing with him.
When Gregor and his parents realize that Gregor solely plays the task of a worker, communication stops entirely. This is similar to life before the transformation where both parties display a high level of hardship communicating with one another. They cannot relate reflecting the beetle which cannot communicate with human beings, although Grete displays a small amount of understanding. Although the sister seems to be on his side at first, she begins to get tired of giving him care. It becomes evident that she feeds and cleans him out of obligation than out of kind heart. She also sees him as a bug as each day passes. This is seen when she loses her persistence and tells her parents that he is a burden upon the family members. She states that the creature cannot be Gregor as the Gregor they all knew is long gone. This serves as the basis for explaining the consequences of Gregor’s transformation. One might endeavor to state that the actual Gregor died when Gregor started working to provide for the family. This is because he changed from being a normal brother and son into being a worker who existed only to bring in his income. Gregor’s job took the structure of a hard outer shell that alienated him from his family. This work changed the way his family perceived him. Although the transformation occurred overnight, the real change happened slower. Additionally, although the physical transformation occurred only in his imagination, he underwent a drastic transformation. That is when he wakes up to discover his real identity, but he cannot even recognize himself.
As illustrated in the above examples from the text, it is true that Gregor became a rebel against his family and society at large. However, Gregor does not become a rebel by choice rather conditions force him into becoming one. A successful rebel should not only be defiant against their authority, but also have some ideals that they hold to. The ideals of Gregor include working arduously, making money, and taking care of his family. Gregor’s life is controlled even by his manager who goes to his house when Gregor misses the train. This and other forms of control from his family make Gregor feel pressure to conform to those that surround their lives. As a protagonist, Gregor is a brave rebel in his own way. Although he does not choose to become a bug, he chooses to be courageous in the condition. At first he is occupied in his job and pleasing his family. Kafka brings out his work perfectly by clearly illustrating how Gregor is reduced into an insect by his family and the world. He reflects that the more selfless and generous one is, the worse one is treated. This is exactly what happens to Gregor as his actions and intentions are to support his family members. As the family is only concerned In Gregor for their own needs. This is what makes Gregor rebel against the expectations of the society. Thus, the author’s representation of Gregor as worthless to his family works well in reflecting Gregor as a rebel.
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. New York: Bantam, 1988. Print.
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