The Metamorphosis Quotes About Work & Gregor's Job

Instructor: Margaret Stone

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

Gregor Samsa toils at a job he hates in Franz Kafka's 'The Metamorphosis', but after he awakens to life as an insect his family must find work for themselves. They hate work, and they come to hate Gregor, once he can no longer provide for them.

Gregor's Job

Immediately after readers of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis learn that Gregor Samsa has gone to sleep as a man and awakened as an insect, Kafka focuses their attention on the concept of work. This early emphasis helps establish work as one of the primary concerns, or themes, of the work.

After he examines his new insect body, Gregor's thoughts almost immediately turn to his job. Gregor, a traveling salesman, dreads spending time on the road. ''Oh God, he thought, what an exhausting job I've picked out for myself! On the road day in, day out. It's much more irritating work than doing the actual business in the home office, and on top of that there's the trouble of constant traveling, of worrying about train connections, the bad food and irregular meals, casual acquaintances that are always new and never become intimate friends.''

A job that allows travel and meeting new people every day might seem appealing, but the job is torture to Gregor. In fact, the isolation and drudgery of Gregor's work situation seems, at least for the moment, to cause him even more anxiety than the fact that he has become an insect.

Gregor is the only member of his family who is employed. His father no longer works, and part of Gregor's pay goes toward paying off his father's business debts. Gregor dislikes his boss, but he holds his tongue at work because of his obligation to support his family. ''If I didn't have to hold back because of my parents I'd have given notice long ago, I'd have gone to the boss and told him exactly what I think of him,'' Gregor says. He has often dreamed of quitting his job once he has repaid his father's debts.

Gregor often thinks of the dehumanizing effects of his job. Everyone is suspected of laziness, and if a worker is sick, the insurance doctor believes the worker is lying to avoid having to work.


Once the family discovers the Gregor is an insect and thus no longer employable, many changes begin to occur in the Samsa household. Gregor's father, mother, and sister Grete discuss the family's financial situation, and Gregor learns that his father has hoarded some money from his failed business. Gregor realizes that he has been working to support the entire family, but no one has been especially grateful for his efforts. ''They had simply gotten used to it, both the family and Gregor; the money was gratefully accepted and gladly given, but there was no special outpouring of warm feeling.''

Gregor's metamorphosis has created a financial crisis in the family. When Gregor was working, his father had appeared to be physically unable to work. Gregor's father ''. . . used to lie wearily sunk in bed whenever Gregor set out on a business trip;'' and he ''. . . could not really rise to his feet but only lifted his arms in greeting. . . .''

With Gregor unemployed, however, his father must take a job. ''Now he was standing there straight as a stick, dressed in a smart blue uniform with gold buttons, such as bank attendants wear.'' Clearly, Gregor's father has been able to work all along, though he resents the fact that he now has to work. ''What a life. So this is the peace and quiet of my old age,'' Gregor's father says. Soon Gregor's entire family is working.

Other changes must occur with the primary breadwinner disabled, so the Samsa family takes in boarders. In one of the many absurdities in the novella, the Samsas seem confused about tenant-landlord relationships, for they allow the boarders to rule the home.

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