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The Metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa and His Family

Introduction

The Metamorphosis is one of the best-known works of German-language writer Franz Kafka. Originally titled as Die Verwandlung, the short story was first published in 1915. Since its publication, The Metamorphosis received a lot of attention from critics and readers, fascinated by the surreal and tragic story of an ordinary man turning into horrible vermin. Most of the researchers and critics pay more attention to the transformation of the central character, Gregor Samsa himself. However, the drastic change in Gregor’s physical nature influences his family’s attitude towards him more than his mind. Structurally and conceptually, the story consists of three parts, Gregor and his family discovering the transformation and their reactions to it, attempts to find some sympathy for him and feeling that they owe him their care, and finally complete indifference to Gregor until his death. The change of attitudes towards him is more dynamic than his psychological alternation. Nevertheless, despite the general pattern of the story, Gregor’s relationships with each family member are different, and after the transformation, they all develop in their unique way. Thus, in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915), Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect-like creature is a metaphor for human isolation and misery, but the focus on the relationships between members of the Samsa family allows readers to grasp both Gregor’s deprivation of human interaction and conflicts that the rest of the family faced.

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Main body

The Metamorphosis depicts the alienation of a person who is treated by his or her family only as a source of financial sustainability. At first, after the transformation, he remained the same person on the inside, but despite that, his relationships with his sister and parents were deeply affected by it. For the Samsa family, it became impossible to preserve the relationships they had before Gregor’s metamorphosis; they unwillingly became hostile and even cruel to him, even though as a person he did not undergo any changes. At the beginning of the story, having discovered his metamorphosis, Gregor is not terrified; he only worries about his family’s inconvenience because of it. Existence in the form of a monstrous insect does not strike him as worse than his own life and work as a salesperson. He despises his job and only keeps it for his family´s well-being and for his sister to have enough money to attend a music conservatory. On the other hand, Gregor tries to prove to his father his worth for the family. When the Samsa family notices that he did not get up for work and did not answer them through the door, they showed concern and fear. However, it is very soon clear that they mostly worried not about Gregor himself, but about the fact that he would not be able to support the family financially in his new state. His father’s first emotion concerning the transformation is pure anger; he tried to hurl Gregor back to his room.

Surreal and tragic circumstances

Surreal and tragic circumstances make the characters of the novella evolve, and their relationships develop. As the relationships in the family develop, in the second part of the story, the Samsa family recognized looking after Gregor in his new state as their responsibility. Being physically disgusted by the creature their son had become, Gregor’s parents entrusted most of the duties that concerned Gregor to his sister Greta, which affected the relationships among the rest of the family:

During the first two weeks, his parents could not bring themselves to come into him, and often he heard them say how much they appreciated his sister’s work, whereas until now they had frequently been annoyed with her because she had struck them as being a little useless (Kafka 23)

Not only Greta prove herself being useful, but also, at first, she was able to preserve some emotional contact with her brother, she tried to find out what kind of food he preferred, kept him fed and his room clean. Greta felt how vulnerable and dependent on her Gregor was. On the one hand, it helped her to overcome her weakness, but on the other hand, she became more authoritative and less focused on her brother’s needs. She decided to move all the furniture out of Gregor’s room, which made him feel even less human. After Gregor’s transformation, his sister evolved in a much stronger personality. However, Greta was not the only one, who had new responsibilities. Being no longer able to rely on his son’s financial support, Mr. Samsa had to return to his workplace. In some way, it enabled him to feel better about himself; which was why he took on the role of leader in his household and found his self-worth in it (Holland 146-147). He no longer saw Gregor as his family member, only as a threat to his wife and daughter. To protect them, Mr. Samsa did not hesitate to throw apples at Gregor, which eventually led to his son’s death.

The indifference of the Samsa family

For Mrs. Samsa, her son’s transformation became a reason for an inner conflict. Despite the terror after first seeing the vermin, she recognized her son in his new form. Her maternal feelings made her sympathetic to him, yet she was physically revolted by what he had become. She was ashamed of living with such a creature, and in the same time, she was ashamed of herself being not able to look after him as a mother because of her disgust. The only solution Mrs. Samsa could find was to deny the human nature of the creature Gregor had become. Soon all members of the Samsa family ceased to think of Gregor as one of their own and grow indifferent to him and his death, even his sister Greta:

I won’t utter my brother’s name in the presence of this creature, and so all I say is: we must try to get rid of it. He must go…that’s the only solution, Father. You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor… If this were Gregor, he would have realized long ago that human beings can’t live with such a creature, and he’d have gone away of his own accord (Kafka 38).

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Conclusion

While Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis is certainly apparent on the outside, the most drastic changes happened in the relationships among the members of the Samsa family. After Gregor’s transformation, the rest of his family became more self-sufficient, decisive and strong, because they had to survive without Gregor’s financial support and leadership. Dealing with their new difficulties, the three of them grow closer as a family. On the other hand, they were disgusted by and ashamed of his new form so much that they could not relate to him. Their family bonds were shattered, and both Gregor’s and his family’s attempts to adapt to the situation only made it worse. Eventually, the only solution for the family to move on was to grow indifferent by dehumanizing the creature Gregor had become. His metamorphosis led their relationships to the situation, where his parents and sister denied Gregor belonging not only to their family but also to humankind.

References

Holland, Norman. “Realism and Unrealism: Kafka’s Metamorphosis.” Modern Fiction Studies 4.2 (1958): 143-50. Print.

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis: The Translation, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism. New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1996. Print.

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StudyCorgi. "The Metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa and His Family." January 7, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-metamorphosis-of-gregor-samsa-and-his-family/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa and His Family." January 7, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-metamorphosis-of-gregor-samsa-and-his-family/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa and His Family'. 7 January.

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