The Metamorphosis: Identity Quotes

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Franz Kafka's ''The Metamorphosis'' is about a man named Gregor who wakes up one morning with the body of a bug and how he and his family deal with that. We will talk about the theme of identity by reviewing a series of quotes.

What is The Metamorphosis?

Imagine waking up one morning in the body of a bug. That's exactly what happened to Gregor Samsa in Franz Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis. Kafka writes, ''One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.'' He freaks out. His family freaks out. The family tries to help him and give him space to live, but as the family struggles to pay their bills, they become less courteous to him. By the end of the book, the family hires a woman to look after Gregor because they just can't deal with him. Sadly, Gregor dies. The story wrestles with the concept of identity throughout the novel. In this lesson, we will learn about the theme by discussing several quotes from the story.

Identity Past and Present

An overlying theme in the story is how Gregor's identity as a bug conflicts with his former identity as a military man. As a transformed creature, his mother refers to him as a ''brown blotch'', and this hurts him deeply. Prior to transforming, he was a man who took pride in his uniform and stature. When Gregor looks at an old photograph of himself, he laments over what he used to be. Kafka writes, ''On the wall directly opposite hung a photograph of Gregor from his army days in a lieutenant's uniform, his hand on his sword, a carefree smile on his lips, demanding respect for his bearing and rank.'' He was once an upstanding man in a public job, and now he can't even leave the house. It seems that physical appearance is incredibly important to one's identity.

Gregor struggles with his new identity and several times in the story, he thinks about being able to be himself again, in any capacity. When in his room,''sometimes he thought that the next time the door opened he would take charge of the family's affairs again, just as he had done in the old days...'' Before turning into a bug, he helped his family with finances, and now he cannot. This leaves him wishing he could go back to his old life and old identity.

Family Identity

After Gregor transforms, his family makes less money because he can't go to work. Eventually, this leads to the family not having enough money to support themselves. Gregor's parents are forced to rent out rooms in their home to make up the difference, and this leads them to think about how they used to behave and how they must behave now that they must cater to tenants. Kafka writes that the ''parents - who had never rented out rooms before and therefore behaved toward the roomers with excessive politeness - did not even dare to sit down on their own chairs…'' The parents must cater to others now, which is something they haven't had to do in the past. It forces them to evaluate their social status, and it becomes clear that they had been very accustomed to being higher on the food chain.

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