Franz Kafka’s best-known work, The Metamorphosis, is driven by the trials of Gregor Samsa. Gregor’s emotional and mental development, as well as his changing perspective on his situation, are the main focus of the short novel. His strife, horror, loss, and death are much more the focus than is the fact that he was transformed into a giant bug. Despite his creature-like appearance, this is a very human story of a man faced with the greatest of disruptions to his life.
The novel may focus on Gregor’s interior life, but one would be remiss not to consider the shocking opening lines of the novel that reveal the transformation to the reader. Before Gregor is aware of what has happened to him, the reader is told, point blank, that he’s been changed into a “monstrous bug”. The most intriguing part of this transformation is the fact that Kafka never provides an explanation for it. It simply happened, for no reason or for every reason.
One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous bug…
The bug-form that Gregor wakes up in is grotesque, painful, and shocking. It is also a representative of the way that the world at large has been treating him for much longer than he really considered. His family, his work colleagues, and the rest of the world always treated him like vermin. Their perspective of him, as undeserved as it was, is made real by Kafka and Gregor is forced to contend with the reality of his world.
If they were shocked, then Gregor had no further responsibility and could be calm. But if they took everything calmly, he he, too, had no reason to get excited and could, if he hurried, actually be at the station by eight o’clock.
In this quote, he is considering what’s going to happen once his family sees him for the first time. He is still in shock, unwilling to accept the fact that his life really has changed and there’s not going to be a trip to the station and the resumption of his duties as a travelling salesman. The calm that he sought from his family members did not manifest. In fact, they could not have reacted less helpfully. Kafka spends a great deal of the novel focusing on Gregor’s state of mind and how he tries to come to terms with his new body. He must find a way to connect his prior humanity to a very un-human form.
A New Life
However, Gregor had become much calmer. All right, people did not understand his words any more, although they seemed clear enough to him, clearer than previously, perhaps because had gotten used to them
As the novel progresses and Gregor begins to grow used to his new form, the communication between himself and his family members starts to concern him less. He speaks and understands his own words, but no one else can. He feels human but is not perceived as human.
The sister played so beautifully. Her face was tilted to one side and she followed the notes with soulful and probing eyes. Gregor advanced a little, keeping his eyes low so that they might possibly meet hers. Was he a beast if music could move him so?
In one of the saddest passages from The Metamorphosis Gregor leaves his room to hear his sister play her violin. Listening to her play was always something that brought him pleasure, and that hasn’t changed since he was transformed. Here, a reader comes to the full conclusion that Gregor is still human. He’s still the person he was before, he’s just trapped in a form that keeps everyone else from seeing him the same way.
He thought back of his family with emotion and love. If it was possible, he felt that he must go away even more strongly than his sister. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful rumination until he heard the clock tower strike three in the morning. He watched as it slowly began to get light everywhere outside the window too. Then, without his willing it, his head sank down completely, and his last breath flowed weakly from his nostrils.
With the above quote, the novel ends and Gregor decides to allow himself to slip into death. His last days and weeks had been a torment. his father had assaulted him and the last of his humanity had been taken away as his mother and sister removed his possessions. In one very painful moment, he hears his sister wishing that Gregor was dead. She no longer considers him her brother, despite her earlier kindnesses towards him.
Even though his family treated him cruelly after his transformation, and took advantage of him before it, he dies wishing them no ill will. His one major regret is that he could no longer take care of them as they’d grown used to. These moving moments towards the end of the novel are juxtaposed with the family’s relief at his passing. They celebrate his death and then go back to their own lives as quickly as possible, wanting to put the whole affair behind them.