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Gregor in The Metamorphosis: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

What would it be like to live as an insect? Franz Kafka explores this question in ''The Metamorphosis'' through Gregor Samsa, a man with an insect body and human brain.

Metamorphosis

When Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to discover that he is now an insect in Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis'', he has an unusual reaction to his strange condition. While most people would be curious and concerned about such a metamorphosis, Gregor surrenders entirely to this new reality without a moment's concern for why he has become an insect.

This odd acceptance of his transformation, however, is only one of the reasons that Gregor is a pitiable character in the narrative.

Human and Insect

Following his transformation, Gregor is forced to cope with mental, emotional and physical issues. While he has the body of a beetle, he has the mind and memories of a human.

When Gregor first discovers his new body, he spends some time contemplating how best to move in his new body: ''He would have needed arms and hands to hoist himself up; instead he had only the numerous little legs which never stopped waving in all directions and which he could not control in the least.''

Though Gregor's body is completely insect, his mind is thoroughly human. Since his family finds him disgusting, Gregor hides in his room. He longs for human companionship however, and he often attempts to listen to his family's conversations from afar.

When his sister and mother begin to remove the furniture from his room to give him more space to crawl, he realizes that the contents of his room are a tenuous connection to his humanity: ''Nothing should be taken out of his room; everything must stay as it was; he could not dispense with the beneficial effects of the furniture on his state of mind; and even if the furniture did hamper him in his senseless crawling around and around, that was no drawback but a great advantage.''

Gregor's memories are intact, as well. As his mother and sister remove his furniture, Gregor is overcome by memories of his life as a human: ''They were clearing his room out, taking away everything he loved; the chest in which he kept his jigsaw and other tools was already dragged off; ...the desk at which he had done all his homework when he was at the commercial academy, at the secondary school before that, and, yes, even at the primary school . . . .''

Victimized

Though Gregor longs for a connection to his family, the truth is that he is of little use to them once he can no longer work. Until the day of his metamorphosis, Gregor has worked to pay off his father's debts and support the family. He has done so because he believes that his father is unable to work. Gregor hates his job as a traveling salesman, and the only joy he takes from working is the knowledge that he is supporting his parents and sister.

Once Gregor is unable to work, it becomes clear that his father is not as physically weakened as he has pretended. Gregor's family has used him for their own needs, but he does not seem to recognize this fact.

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