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“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka


The Metamorphosis is considered to be a well-known novella written by Franz Kafka in 1915; this book is aimed at the disclosure of dramatic actions and transformations making the story expressive and emotional at the same time. It is important to stress that refection play and reality are the integral part of the story as they can be easily assimilated and applied with modern society. The author managed to disclose the theme of grief stages such as anger, denial, depression, bargaining and acceptance centralizing their meaning and role in the characters’ destiny.

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Plot Overview

The Metamorphosis is considered to be a realistic and sad story; Gregor Samsa, the protagonist of the story, sacrifices his personal life by hard work being performed in order to pay the debts of his father instead of making himself happy. He was not loved by his family members; the only task of his existence was considered to be providing financial support to the relatives who never took into account Gregor’s interests. The story is followed by a number of transformations experienced by Gregor during his life. For example, once he became a bug and this very moment the members of his family felt their need for Gregor’s financial support. Being a gigantic insect, Gregor starts working as a salesman; he is to adjust to the new environment and working conditions. Gregor feels his separation from other people. The story discloses Gregor’s unhappy and difficult life which makes him facing difficulties through every step he does.

Being the head of the family, to be more exact financial supporter, the character suffers the sorrows of debt and inability to communicate with the members of the family. Living in the native house, his relatives express fear of new Gregor’s appearance shutting him into the room. Only his sister tries taking care of Gregor providing him with food and water. Nevertheless, the usual food given by Grete is not appropriate for Gregor; instead of this he prefers eating rotten food. The author shows how Gregor develops the feelings of fear and produces negative effects on the family members he makes up his mind hiding from everyone. Despite the negative side of Gregor’s life, Kafka managed to illustrate positive side of the problem. Gregor’s metamorphosis leads to the need for his family being financially independent; so, everyone gets a profitable job in order to be in easy circumstances. With every passing day Gregor becomes completely forgotten and his room is even rarely cleaned; as a result he lives in dirty atmosphere becoming a part of the dust and unwanted objects.

Finally, Gregor is completely forgotten, even by his dear sister, stating:

“We must try to get rid of it. We’ve done everything humanly possible to take care of it and to put up with it, no one can reproach us in the slightest.” (Kafka, )

This point becomes the last straw in Gregor’s life; being collapsed in the room, he comes to the conclusion that nobody needs him… The author tries to demonstrate the happy end showing transformations within Gregor’s family; the story is completed by underlining Grete’s mental and physical change.

Stages of Grief in the Novella

The model of five-stage grief was initially introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who tried to explain how people usually cope with tragedy in their life. She wanted to underline the peculiarities of people living who are diagnosed with serious illnesses or are in despair. It is necessary to underline the fact that Kafka successfully demonstrated the same theme in The Metamorphosis. Five stages introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross covered the following points:

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  • Denial;
  • Anger;
  • Bargaining;
  • Acceptance;
  • Depression.

The description of this model is a bright illustration of Gregor’s feelings and emotions faced during his life in the society. Kafka demonstrates Gregor’s life in the family where everyone expresses denial and shock during every moment of their interaction.

Denial. The stage of denial is expressed through the way Gregor tried to work being transformed into the bug. The character felt his weakness and disability to work with the same efforts he did it before; he denied his new expression and body size which caused inconvenience in working and communicative processes.

Anger and Bargaining. The feeling of anger on the part of Gregor becomes an integral part of his life; he is angry with his family members who completely neglect his presence and express no respect or love to him. Gregor feels miserable being unable to live a life of an ordinary person. According to the grief model, a person feels anger together with envy and range. The analysis of Gregor’s inner world gives an opportunity to state that he has always been ignored by his family and the feeling of envy to the whole world and society surrounding him stimulates Gregor to anger and inner contradictions. This feeling makes obstacles to personal harmony and inner balance inside the person.

It should be noted that Kafka tries to illustrate Gregor’s way to death as the embodiment of five-stage model; emotional dying suffered by Gregor was suppressed by the society he lived in. the author managed to show transformations not only physical but also emotional.

Depression. Constant depression of Gregor living in the form of gigantic insect was followed by his disabilities to communicate with other people and perceive the world as a usual person. Living an insect’s life Gregor feels constant inconveniences connected with the ways of movement and his size. He cannot eat normal food and sleep in the way he did earlier; Gregor’s disability to spend time and play the music with his dear sister brings him more sorrow and depression.

Acceptance. The author shows that Gregor never feels respect or love on the part of his family. Very often, people begin appreciating each other when it is late enough; nevertheless Gregor’s support has never been valued. It should be noted that the protagonist is completely rejected by everyone in his life; people treat him as a sick relative who should or even must provide them with financial aid.

The author combined the grief model with the theme of personal abandon; the stages of emotional death are constantly followed by Gregor’s ignorance everywhere: at work, in the society and even at home. His family needs him as a financial support only expressing no feelings to this person. Transformations and metamorphosis are observed throughout the whole story; not only on the example of Gregor’s physical state. Emotional changes in his inner world are predominantly caused by the attitude he feels. It is important to stress that the author managed to create the atmosphere of modern society where pressure of the majority can transform the life of every individual; the world where ignorance and disrespect are centralized through people’s attitude to each other and behavior.

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Kafka tries to stick to similes and comparisons in the story; disclosing the image of insect and family attitude to Gregor, the author compares character with the dust, just usual dust in the wind. He even describes his room as the dirty place felled with unwanted objects where Gregor has to hide from the cruelty and disrespect of those whom he loves most of all.

The stages of grief highlighted in the story show Gregor’s sufferings and gradual way to death. He was aware of his future and of the fact that he has no chance to live the life of a normal person. Hiding under the couch and having small size, insect Gregor tries to protect himself from general unfairness; it was difficult for him, to understand the reason for treating him as an invalid when he was a person, and now, being an insect, he comes to the fact that it is his natural form.


The story The Metamorphosis by Kafka is considered to be a magnificent masterpiece of modern literature world. The author managed to create unreal transformations through modern reality disclosing the life in the society covered by ignorance and misunderstanding. The description of Gregor allows seeing and feeling the inner world of those people who are really ill with dangerous diseases and live in emotional instability leading to death.

The novella appeared to be close to life through the seriousness of aspects described by the author. The model of five-stage grief is the real reflection of Gregor’s life sufferings and gradual emotional death.


Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka." November 4, 2021.


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