Door Symbolism in The Metamorphosis

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina earned an MFA in Creative Writing, has several published novels and short stories, and teaches English and writing.

A single set of double doors is what separates Gregor Samsa from his family. Gregor hides his secret, that he is a beetle, behind the wooden doors. In Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis,'' the door is a significant portal.

Welcoming In and Shutting Out

Gregor Samsa was an ordinary traveling salesman. He kept to himself and tried to work hard. However, one morning, everything changed; Gregor awoke as a beetle. That's right, a vermin bug.

Author Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka

He hides behind his bedroom's locked door until his family pleads to see him. Throughout Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, Gregor's bedroom door is used to entrap him, to keep him from the daily goings-on in the house, and to communicate whether he is welcome outside of his room.

A Kept Secret Later Revealed

Gregor seems to have enjoyed his privacy, and the door to his bedroom helps with this. ''Gregor, however, had no thought of opening the door, and instead congratulated himself for his cautious habit, acquired from his traveling, of locking all doors at night even when he was at home.''

A beetle, like Gregor
A Beetle, Perhaps Gregor

And, even as Gregor transforms into a beetle, the door keeps his secret. Even his changing voice might be hid: ''The change in Gregor's voice probably could not be noticed outside through the wooden door.'' The door, for a bit of time, keeps Gregor's secret private.

The door, however, can't keep Gregor's secret for long. It is, after all, a passageway. When the family finds out, the door reveals his secret: ''Because he had to open the door in this way, it was already wide open before he could be seen. He had first to slowly turn himself around one of the double doors, and he had to do it very carefully if he did not want to fall flat on his back before entering the room.'' With an open door, Gregor's new persona is revealed.

The Door as a Message

The door becomes a portal between Gregor the beetle and his human parents; it is what separates him from life and from his family.

Gregor's family's use of the door sends messages and reveals their feelings: ''Once during that long evening, the door on one side of the room was opened very slightly and hurriedly closed again; later on the door on the other side did the same; it seemed that someone needed to enter the room but thought better of it.''

The door, if opened, prompts Gregor's movements from his room. If ajar, ever so slightly, it shows that someone wants to visit with him in his room, but he should keep his distance from the others.

If closed, his family is entrapping him and keeping him out of view: ''No sooner had she come in than she would quickly close the door as a precaution so that no-one would have to suffer the view into Gregor's room.'' The door brings life to the phrase 'Out of sight, out of mind.'

While he cannot partake in normal activities, like eating dinner at the table, Gregor can observe others doing so from afar: ''Through the crack in the door, Gregor could see that the gas had been lit in the living room.''

The Door as a Barrier

Yet, while the door provides a window into his family's livelihood, it is still a barrier. Gregor has no control over its movements. He, as a beetle, must succumb to the actions of others. If they welcome him, the door is open; if not, it is closed. For much of his time, the door is closed.

The double doors act as a window and a barrier to Gregor.
double doors.

The door is one fixture that people take advantage of. We become accustomed to opening and closing it, to fitting through it. For Gregor, something as simple as a door becomes an impediment. No longer can he reach the handle. No longer can he lock himself in or exit his room whenever he pleases. Taking on a new form as a beetle, Gregor must learn many things, like how to use a door.

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