Updated: Aug 6, 2021
A traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a horrible vermin (giant insect).
It is unexplained what lies behind this abnormal metamorphosis. This transformation is a context for exposing deep feelings such as alienation, isolation, and loneliness.
"And he lay there quietly a while longer, breathing lightly as if he perhaps expected the total stillness to bring things back to their real and natural state."
Gregor is already feeling isolated at his job. His constant travel allows him to make casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends. His work is strenuous for he has to travel day in and day out. Despite this, he is glued to his job because his parents have a huge debt to pay off, and also his entire family – his mother, father, and sister Grete is dependent on him financially. Things take a twist when Gregor turns into a vermin.
Quite obviously, he is not able to continue with his job with his new transformation. His inability to be useful to his family gradually changes his family's outlook towards him.
His mother panics and considers that her son is unfortunate and has encountered some illness. She hopes that her son will soon recover to his natural state.
His father is horrified by his son's transformation and aims to avoid the sight of Gregor, through whatever possible means like throwing apples on him or kicking him, or pushing him back in his room with the help of a cane.
Grete, on the contrary, sympathizes with his brother and amidst all the panic and horror spread in the house, she chooses to daycare him (without catching sight of him) by providing him food, thinking about his convenience, and respecting his feelings through possible actions.
Although Gregor transforms physically, he is still a human on an emotional level. He works his own way out through his metamorphosis. With time, he experiences feelings that are hard to deal with but sadly enough he cannot convey his mental state to the people around him. Gregor's voice turns to that of an animal making him unable to communicate with humans, adding more to his isolation.
"I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself."
To save his family from any sort of embarrassment or panic, he hides from their sight however possible. He eavesdrops on his family through a slit on his room's door to understanding their state. He feels ashamed of himself that he could not live up to his family's expectations (financially). He is drawn back. He realizes that his identity as a human is fading and his family is disconnecting with him over time.
"What if I slept a little more and forgot about all this nonsense."
On a physical level, Gregor discovers a liking for things that he could not have thought of otherwise. He craves rotted food. He is comfortable staying in dark and small places. He climbs up the walls and hangs on the ceiling upside down. Although Grete sympathizes with her brother at first, she turns disinterested in him down the line. His mother passes out if she sees Gregor accidentally. His father treats him ruthlessly and forces him to stay in his room.
Gradually with the circumstances, Gregor's family realizes that having a horrible-looking creature in their home will do them no good. Neither he is able to provide them financially, nor he makes their current living any easier.
Eventually, Grete suggests her parents get rid of Gregor for the betterment of their lives. The father agrees with Grete and takes the decision to eliminate Gregor from their life. He also expects that his son will understand their condition and relieve them sooner.
Gregor understands his family's decision and with a hope to relieve his family from his unwanted burden he isolates himself completely in his bedroom and then one day dies. His death induces a sense of relief in his family. They move to a different apartment and thus move on with the remnants of Gregor's existence.
The story ends showing that Gregor's parents are now planning to look for a suitable groom for their daughter Grete.
Written by Pooja Kakde.
NOTE: Quotes are taken from the book Metamorphosis authored by Franz Kafka.
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