Isolation & Alienation in The Metamorphosis: Theme & Quotes

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  • 0:04 Gregor's Isolation
  • 1:25 Family Relationships
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

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

Gregor Samsa feels alienated at work and at home in Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis.'' When he suddenly becomes an insect and is of no further use to his family, they vow to get rid of him.

Gregor's Isolation

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is a story about what happens after Gregor Samsa becomes an insect overnight. One of the main themes of the story is isolation. After this remarkable metamorphosis, Gregor begins to feel alienated from his family. But Gregor has actually been feeling isolated at his job as a traveling salesman long before his amazing and absurd transformation. He bemoans the fact that his constant travel allows him to make only ''casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends.''

After Gregor's metamorphosis, the family is horrified by his new appearance. He does his best to appease the sensibilities of the others in the house by hiding under furniture in his room when others might accidentally catch sight of him. Gregor's sister Grete enters his room regularly to feed him, and she seems genuinely concerned for his well-being at first, but she recoils at his appearance. ''She did not see him at once, yet when she caught sight of him under the sofa. . . she was so startled that without being able to help it she slammed the door shut again.''

Gregor's parents experience revulsion when they see him, so he typically stays hidden from their view as much as possible. He misses spending time with his family, though, and often attempts to listen to their conversations while remaining out of sight.

Family Relationships

A close examination of Gregor's family's motives, however, reveals that they are using him. He's the only one who works, and his job as a salesman takes him away from the family. Once he is unable to work, Gregor discovers that the other family members have been malingering. They are quite able to work, and all find jobs once Gregor's paycheck stops.

Gregor has likely been alienated from his family for some time because he is so unlike the other family members. Gregor takes on the responsibility of paying back his father's business debts and feels guilt when he's unable to continue to support the family. Meanwhile, his father would lay wearily in bed, often not getting out of bed. Of course, the father's entire demeanor changes once he gets a job and dons a shiny-buttoned uniform.

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