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The metamorphosis by Frank Kafka is a fictional story about Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a hideous monstrous vermin. Despite this fact, Gregor continues to behave normally like any other normal human being and this makes the story comical. In his book Kafka has used many stylistic devices to get to his reader. Kafka skillfully uses a lot of symbolism, repetition, ironies and metaphors to put across his message. The book title, The Metamorphosis, is an English word which means change. Change is one of the major themes in Kafka's The Metamorphosis.
Theme of Change in the Metamorphosis
In this book, Kafka has clearly illustrated how change takes place in the life of an individual. Everything and everyone changes in this novel from the time Gregor wakes up to discover that he has changed into a vermin to the time of his untimely death. The writer shows how change brings about both good and bad changes. The changes that took place in the life of Gregor impacted his life and the lives of those around him both positively and negatively.
The first change that takes place is physical change. This is seen in the first line of the first page of the book which is also supposedly the climax of the book “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug” (Kafka 3). This change can be said to be the root of all changes since it triggers changes in his internal and external world. Next we see Gregor’s voice changing from that of a human to that of a bug. After waking up he discovered that apart from the physical transformation, his voice had changed too to that of a bug. Kafka writes “Gregor was startled when he heard his voice answering… it was intermingled, as if from below, an irrepressively painful squeaking which left the words positively distinct only in the first moment and distorted them in the reverberation…” (Kafka 6). “That was an animal’s voice,” said the manager (Kafka, 16). Gregor goes on to try and hide that fact from his family members by avoiding long conversation and leaving his room locked but eventually the truth is known.
Due to Gregor’s transformation, he is no longer able to work and this leads to a change in the family’s financial situation. To cope with this, Gregor’s family had to find jobs. Gregory’s sister, Grete became a salesgirl and learnt French in the evening. His father became a messenger for banking institutions. His mother took up a sewing job for local clothing store.
Due to their financial situation the lifestyle changes for Gregor’s family. His family had to let go of their servant girl and a huge bony cleaning woman had to come in the morning and evening to do the heaviest work. Gregor’s mother did everything else in addition to her sewing work (Kafka 55). Two people had to be home to check on Gregor.
The feelings of the family towards Gregor gradually change from loving to uncaring. The family that used to love him slowly stopped caring for him. Gregor was locked in his room. On one occasion when Gregor had made an appearance out of his room, his father had injured him by throwing apples at him one by one (Kafka 51). Gregor’s sister, Grete becomes weary of helping Gregor. Towards the end we see that Gregor’s room was in a mess and Grete rarely cared what food she brought to Gregor. No one seemed to care about how Gregor was feeling. The family’s feelings of love changed to indifference towards Gregor. To the family Gregor was nothing but a burden. The last time Gregor got out of his room his sister complaining of Gregor’s state and telling her parents to get rid of him. When Gregor turned to go to his room, the door was slammed right behind his back (Kafka 70). Shortly after, Gregor took his own life.
After the death of Gregor, the family’s mood changes to one of relief. On seeing his dead son’s body, Mr. Samsa is heard saying, “Well, now we can give thanks to God.” On the same day, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa and their daughter all take a break from work. For the first time in months all three of them leave the apartment together. All three seem excited as they plan the changes they are going to make such as moving to another apartment. The late Gregor’s family has changed greatly for they now had hope for the future since they all had jobs. Mr. and Mrs. Samsa’s perception of Grete changes also for they now see her as a lady suitable for marriage. Before they used to get annoyed at Grete for they saw her as useless. (Kafka 40)
Kafka has portrayed how change can deeply affects someone’s life. By using Gregor’s life he has shown how change in the financial stability of a person can have an impact on his life and the lives of the people of the people around him. This is especially relevant in our modern world since the cost of living has gone up. When a person looses a job, other than coping with the stress, he has to deal with other issues such as how he is going to provide for his family. This can become very tough for a person especially if he was the breadwinner of the family as was the case for Gregor who eventually ended committing suicide as a result of his inability to support his family. Gregor’s dehumanizing and ensuing feelings of alienation symbolize the human conditions during modern times (Kafka 3).
By using Gregor and his family, Kafka has indirectly portrayed the kind of people we are. Amongst us are people like Gregor who sacrifice a lot for the ones we love. There are also people like Grete who eventually forget the good things other people did for us in the past. In short, Kafka’s work of literature should be a wake up call for us to examine ourselves and adjust our character accordingly.