Franz Kafka’s horror novel, The Metamorphosis uses a very imaginative approach to literature to present effectively society’s response to an individual, Gregor Samsa, that does not fit the standards due to a inexplicable transformation.
Gregor Samsa is a responsible travel salesman that one day awakened as an insect after sleeping late. His first response to his change in shape was not to question his present state, but rather to try to fulfill his job responsibilities and obligations for that day as a normal and useful human being. Nowhere in the novel does any character question the transformation but the characters seem to accept it readily.
Society demands a lot from Gregor Samsa. His job seems frustrating, and un-fulfilling. On one side, his boss is an absolute authority figure. On the other hand, the chief clerk accuses him, with no evidence, of an unethical activity simply because he is allegedly hiding in his room. Prior to his metamorphosis, he also played an important financial role in the family as chief provider. He lives a rather comfortable life, but he is forced to work very hard for it.
The physical transformation brings a quick degradation in his relationship with the mother and the father, to the point that his father throws apples at him and wounds him, moved seemingly by instinct like behavior. How can we expect society to accept Gregor if even his own family dislikes his presence?
His wound is not only physical: it can be read as a symbolic reminder of his difference and of society’s response to it. Finally, the lodgers, who exert a great pressure on the family due to economic reasons, represent outer society and the possible reactions that could arise if Gregor is removed from his house.
His inability to communicate symbolizes his alienation from society. The conditions in the room reflect Gregor’s own condition and act as a microcosm. He normally does not leave the room. Because his physical appearance is not fit according to social standards, Gregor attempts to keep peace by avoiding frighting people. At first, the family respects his space for a while, but later they begin to use the room as a repository and as it starts to be covered with dust nobody cleans it. This happens parallel to Gregor’s emotional condition worsening. Finally, the removal of the furniture acts as a detonation of his alienation as Gregor looses his identity. This is parallel to the deterioration of Gregor’s emotional condition. Furthermore, the removal of the furniture acts as a detonation of his alienation as Gregor looses loses his identity.
An insect is driven ultimately by instincts and the all-powerful necessity of survival. However, Gregor is driven by other aspirations even when he is a bug. Even though his preferences such as eating have changed, he still has aspirations that are not characteristics of insects. He wishes for better times and provide for his sister''s career at the conservatory. However, his family, who benefited from his hard work, now sees him just like a useless insect. Gregor’s physical death is analogous to his emotional death. It is seen by his family as a much-awaited liberation and allows them to think about the future with a fresh perspective. They seem to easily ignore his death and end up talking casually about the need to find a husband for Grete.
The style of the novel is very clear, straightforward and impacting, and it allows Kafka to focus on the transformation. The climatic shock provided at the beginning of the novel catches the reader’s attention. Finally, the detailed and realistic descriptions of the transformation allow it to have more verisimilitude.
Kafka’s The Metamorphosis depicts the effects of a mysterious physical transformation that symbolizes the alienation of the character. As the novel progresses, his family’s attitude towards the insect worsens until it results in his physical and emotional death. The transformation goes beyond the physical level. This allows Kafka to elaborate on the response of society to the hard-working Gregor who one day became a giant insect. Kafka’s genius and imagination is evident in his design of the parallelism between the physical and emotional transformation of Gregor Samsa.